Health leaders give go-ahead for public consultation on £500m investment

People in Surrey Downs, Sutton and Merton were today (Monday 6 January 2020) urged to have their say on proposals to invest £500 million in improving hospital services after health leaders gave the go-ahead to launch a public consultation.

NHS Surrey Downs, Sutton and Merton Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) met in public today and agreed to launch a public consultation on 8 January on three potential options for the location of a brand new specialist emergency care hospital – on the Epsom, St Helier or Sutton hospital sites. Sutton was agreed by the CCGs as a preferred option, but health leaders were clear that all three options could be delivered and will be consulted on by the NHS.

The new 21st century hospital facility would bring together six services for the most unwell patients, as well as births in hospital.

All three options would see the majority of services (85%) staying at Epsom Hospital and at St Helier Hospital, with an investment of at least £80 million in the current buildings. Both hospitals would run round the clock, 365 days a year, with urgent treatment centres, inpatient and outpatient services.

The CCGs have set out their preferred option for the new state-of-the-art hospital facility to be Sutton Hospital, next to the Royal Marsden specialist cancer hospital.  Services for the most unwell patients would be provided at the specialist emergency care hospital, including A&E, critical care, emergency surgery, inpatient children’s beds, as well as births in hospital. The consultation proposals explain that this option would have the greatest benefit for the most people, the least overall impact on travel for older people and those from deprived communities, while also having the smallest increase in average travel time for the most people. It would also be the easiest and fastest to build – taking around four years, rather than up to seven for the alternative options.

Following the meeting at Bourne Hall in Ewell near Epsom, Merton GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Merton CCG Dr Andrew Murray said:

“This £500m investment gives us the chance to develop a brand new 21st century hospital facility for local people for generations to come. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity and we need to make this happen. One thing is clear – if we don’t change how we provide our hospital services, the quality and safety of care for people is going to get worse – we already face a shortage of doctors, and never-ending repair costs for buildings older than the NHS.

“It’s really important that local people look at the evidence and give us their views. Our assessments point to Sutton as the preferred option for a new hospital facility, but the NHS could also deliver a brand new hospital at Epsom or St Helier.  I would urge everyone in Surrey Downs, Sutton and Merton to get involved – there are many ways to have your say.”

Dr Ruth Charlton, Joint Medical Director for Epsom St Helier NHS Trust said:

“Our hospital staff work extremely hard day-in day-out, and it’s down to their dedication and commitment that our hospitals manage to provide a good service for patients. However, we cannot go on relying on the goodwill of our staff. We need to bring together our specialist doctors and healthcare staff, so we can meet national standards for emergency care, around the clock at evening and weekends. I want my most unwell patients to be able to get a fast diagnosis and start treatment more quickly to speed-up their recovery. These proposals set out how bigger teams of expert hospital staff at a specialist emergency care hospital could do this.”

The funding for the Epsom and St Helier Trust, announced nationally in September 2019, would help address major workforce, buildings and financial pressures – including mounting costs to fund temporary staff, continuous repairs for buildings older than the NHS – as well as make the best use of a shortage of doctors and health specialists.

Surrey GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Surrey Downs Dr Russell Hills said:

“It’s important to stress that under all the options we’re consulting on the vast majority of the current services would continue at refurbished Epsom and St Helier hospitals and both would continue to provide care for people with injuries like broken bones, day surgery, beds for older people recovering from illness and outpatient services – with urgent treatment available for local people day and night.

“Most of our hospital buildings are older than the NHS. All our patients and staff deserve to be in dry, clean, modern hospital facilities that are fit for purpose.”

Sutton GP, and Clinical Chair of NHS Sutton, Dr Jeff Croucher said:

“In my Sutton practice I see patients every day, I care about their experiences and the care they receive both in, and out of hospital. It’s not acceptable that very sick patients are wheeled around in their beds often going outside in the rain, to get to different parts of the hospital, because the old buildings are not connected. It’s not acceptable that we use ambulances to move people around the hospital for treatment because the lifts break and are too small for modern hospital beds. It’s not acceptable that we don’t have enough single rooms for patients who are at the end of their lives, or for patients who need better privacy and dignity. We must make sure this investment comes into the Epsom and St Helier Trust, for the sake of all our local patients, their children and grandchildren.”

The NHS is now urging people to give their views between Wednesday 8 January and Wednesday 1 April 2020. As well as responding online directly to the consultation questionnaire, people can get involved through a whole range of different ways designed to make sure the NHS hears as many voices, from as many communities as possible, including those who find it difficult to go to meetings or respond in writing. These include a series of nine public listening events, focus groups, telephone surveys, pop-up stalls in busy places, funding voluntary groups to help communities engage with the consultation, as well as targeted outreach work with groups such as older people and deprived communities as well as seldom heard groups like people with learning disabilities.

A copy of the full consultation document and a consultation questionnaire will be available to access from improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk from 8 January. Alternatively, a hard copy can be requested by emailing hello@improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk or calling 0203 8800271. To keep up to date on the consultation visit the Improving Healthcare Together 2020-2030 Facebook page or the @IHTogether Twitter feed.

The local NHS is determined to make sure its consultation plans are as thorough, wide-ranging and transparent as possible. The “Improving Healthcare Together Programme” has been awarded a ‘best practice’ standard for its public consultation plan from an independent organisation called ‘The Consultation Institute’. The consultation documentation has also been approved by the ‘Plain English Society’.

Health leaders were keen to emphasise that no decisions will be made on the future of Epsom and St Helier hospitals until the spring or summer when the CCGs will consider the views of local people and all the clinical and financial evidence.


Notes to Editors

Papers for the meeting on Monday 6 January 2020 meeting are published at: News item – Join us for our Improving Healthcare Together Committees in Common meeting

They include:

  • A draft pre-consultation business case setting out the detailed clinical and financial models for all the options
  • Draft consultation documents – a summary version and the full consultation document, and the consultation questionnaire
  • The full draft consultation plan was assessed and approved by an independent organisation called The Consultation Institute who review consultation best practice across the UK.

Seven criteria were used to assess the three hospital sites and show Sutton as the preferred option:

  • Quality of care.
  • Long-term clinical sustainability.
  • Meeting the health needs of local people.
  • Access, including travel.
  • How easy it is to deliver.
  • Finance.
  • Fit with the NHS long-term plan.

Independent clinical experts reviewed the proposals. The Clinical Senates of London and the South East – bodies that represent senior GPs and hospital doctors to review any proposals to change services – stated that there are significant benefits to bringing together the six acute hospital services into a new purpose-built specialist emergency care hospital on one of the three sites.

With the help of patient, carer, voluntary and community groups – including Healthwatch – more than 1,500 were involved in shaping initial proposals. What they said helped change the opening hours of the proposed urgent treatment centres to round the clock instead of 8am-8pm.

There will be many ways for local people to give their views and get involved in the consultation from 8 January 2020:

  • Fill in the questionnaire on our website.
  • We are planning a range of events including nine listening events. You will be able to find a list of these on our website (www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk), call us on 02038 800 271 send us a text message on 07500 063191 from 8 January.
  • We’ll also be actively engaging with affected communities through our consultation activities.
  • You will be able to download the consultation materials from our website or request hard copies by email or phone – hello@improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk or 02038 800 271.

For more information please contact the press office 020 3880 0302 or pressoffice@swlondon.nhs.uk