Saturday, 18 May 2013

South-west London and the amazing shrinking hospitals...

It has already cost more than £2 million and the costs are set to continue before the people like me who live in south-west London will find out just how badly our hospitals (for we do pay for these hospitals, they are ours) will be neutered.

"It" is the tragically misnamed "Better Service, Better Value" consultation has been given the task of saving more than £300 million across hospitals in this growing part of the capital. Given that more than £2 million has been spent "consulting", they are already behind the eight-ball.

Three options have been put forward involving closing assorted parts of hospitals, downgrading some Accident and Emergency departments to urgent care centres (how "urgent care" differs from the care required at an A&E department is unclear), closing some maternity units, slashing the odd renal unit and, hey,  surely we need fewer intensive care departments in a city this big...

If even one of these hospitals loses its A&E or maternity department, there will be an inevitable knock-on effect for the hospitals that still have these vital units. St Helier, the hospital nearest to my house, looks most likely to lose both these departments as well as the renal unit and intensive care. This hospital regularly accepts patients for A&E and maternity when the often excellent but frequently overstretched St George's Hospital in Tooting cannot cope. More than £200 million had been set aside by successive governments for a much-needed upgrade to St Helier but now that funding is under a cloud.

On top of all this, there are no costings on how much will need to be spent to upgrade the hospitals that don't lose vital departments so the whole process seems set to foist a gigantic exercise in false economy on our lives.

This all comes hot on the heels of the scandalous downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, in London's south-east - an area not too far removed from the swathe of the south-west which is now under threat.

The public is constantly being told that no decision has been made yet on the three options. And all three options are awful. It is fine for me to yell and scream that I want St Helier to remain as it is. But that means that another hospital in the area will lose services and St Helier would be overburdened.

So there is the truly nasty part - while we try and defend our local hospitals in our little corners of south-west London, this has the horrible effect of pitting communities against each other.

So, a fourth option needs to be put forward involving largely retaining the status quo. But there are only three options on the table. And here is the kicker: the BSBV committee is meant to put four options forward.

And there is another kicker. There is meant to be a three-month public consultation process that does not run over the summer holiday period. But the process is slated to run over the summer holiday period.

So what now? It is imperative that all of us who have been fighting to keep our hospitals in south-west London unmolested united and push for a fourth option to be put on the table and for the public consultation period to be moved back to September.

If neither of these two things happen, then it would not be unreasonable for the local authorities to call for a judicial review. But judicial reviews are expensive. And this is not a time when any local authorities are keen to put up council tax in order to fund a judicial review.

The question that everyone in south-west London needs to ask themselves is would they be prepared to pay a little bit more council tax in the short term to fund a judicial review? The kneejerk answer most people would give to this question is most likely a resounding no. And if that is the case, if everyone stands by and lets this happen, if the people of south-west London do not fight together to preserve their health services, the outcome could be fatal.

Photo courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov

1 comment:

  1. My best wishes go out to you, we are fighting hard to keep Stafford the much maligned hospital that Camaroon lied about at the Tory conference yet again, We said we were fighting to save the NHS as a whole, we were right.