Earlier this month local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups approved the plans for a £500m investment for Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and the construction of a brand new specialist hospital in Sutton.
The money will allow the much-needed refurbishment of St Helier Hospital to continue and builds on the £100m investment we have already had committed. Those who have visited St Helier Hospital will know that the hospital building itself is outdated, older than the NHS itself in fact, which makes it harder for the staff to do their jobs effectively.
The refurbishment will mean less money and time needs to be spent on repairs and will mean that ambulances will not need to transport patients from the back of St Helier to the front because the lifts are too small for modern hospital beds.
Under the new proposals to build a new hospital, 85% of services would stay at Epsom and St Helier hospitals in refurbished buildings, with both hospitals running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with urgent treatment centres at each hospital. Despite much scaremongering this confirms that St Helier Hospital is safe.
The new specialist emergency care hospital, just a few minutes from St Helier, would treat the sickest 15% of patients, those normally arriving by ambulance. This larger specialist team would be available 24 hours a day to diagnose what is wrong with patients more rapidly, start the best treatment faster, and help patients recover more quickly. It is undoubtedly true that this hospital configuration would allow us to treat any future pandemic.
I know some are concerned about public transport links to Sutton, and I have raised the need for a bespoke bus service to the new Sutton Hospital, to cover the Cannon Hill and Morden areas. I am confident that this will be provided.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the local Labour council are opposing and seeking to delay this investment. After years of warning that St Helier Hospital will be completely shut down, they are now objecting to investment that will modernise St Helier Hospital. And even more extraordinary is that they are even considering wasting thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds to stop a £500m pound project via a judicial review.
In contrast whilst Merton Conservative Councillors and I would have preferred the new hospital to have been built at St Helier, we recognise that the approved plans are still fantastic news for Merton residents. It means there will be an improvement in the quality, quantity and access to healthcare in the area. It also means a refurbished St Helier Hospital is here to stay providing the majority of local health services, and the sickest patients will get state-of-the-art treatment in the brand-new specialist emergency hospital.
Finally, Merton Council, together with all local Councils have received huge financial support from the Government. This has helped to provide the local services we all needed during the pandemic and the grants to support for local businesses. However there are some local businesses which the local council has the discretion to support but has not yet done so. I continue to press for help to be extended to these businesses.
I am sure you will have seen the Prime Minister set out the next steps in the Government’s response to the pandemic, and the plan to further reopen the economy should transmission levels remain low. This plan includes the reopening of more leisure businesses, pilots for events with live audiences, and new guidance on going to work. You can read this full plan here: www. tinyurl.com/CovidAug