Following the news that the proposed merger between Epsom Hospital and Ashford and St Peter's Hospital Trust will not now go ahead, Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, called for a review not poisoned by party politics around particular buildings.
Speaking today he said:
"For a decade, the sound administration of secondary healthcare from the East Surrey Hospital was poisoned by party politics, played around the future of Crawley hospital. It is only just recovering from this period. Regrettably the politics of health continue to play ducks and drakes with service provision for my constituents living north of the M25. Political interference has been repeated around St Helier Hospital, most of all when the opportunity to deliver a new critical care hospital at Sutton was missed. This proposal had the overwhelming support of clinicians and health service administrators but was torpedoed by a combination of the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden and the then Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, acting again in the perceived interests of voters in a marginal constituency, not in the wider health interests of everyone in the region.
Now the various reconfiguration proposals in the absence of a proper plan for a new critical care hospital are running into some basic facts of geography. St Helier is too old and too near St Georges, Tooting, to justify even the current £219M reinvestment programme, which has now been reviewed endlessly, but is gradually starting to be spent. Epsom hospital, without a significant slice of funding from NHS London, doesn't fit economically into a pattern of Surrey based provision. NHS London, currently looking to withdraw A & E from St Helier, is unlikely to buy the services from Epsom to make it viable.
I welcome Jeremy Hunt's commitment to review the situation carefully and do nothing hurriedly. I will seek his assurances that this will be a health, not a political, review. The MP for Epsom, Chris Grayling suggests that "The failure of the merger has big and wider implications for the health service across South West London, and may have the effect of forcing local NHS managers and commissioners to go back to the drawing board." I agree with this.
Tiresome as a further review would be, it could avert further waste of money on temporary fixes for local secondary healthcare provision, when a strategic review is still required, and this should also address the growing need for seriously scaled-up primary provision. For example, there has been a crying need in Banstead for over a decade to sort out local GP practice facilities, and the opportunity to deliver them together with modern out-patient services on the Horseshoe not taken. We need to get serious about service provision, not building preservation."