Following a presentation to councillors at the full council meeting on Monday 17th October, Andrew Woodhead, Head of Mergers and Acquisitions at NHS London, said the transition board was “working on an assumption that services would remain”, but would not guarantee that St Helier Hospital could continue to provide A&E and maternity services in the future.
He said the proposed merger of St Helier and St George’s Hospital in Tooting was an organisational matter, which would allow the hospital to achieve Foundation Trust status. The future of services is being dealt with by a separate review of healthcare in south west London called Better Services Better Value, he said.
All NHS organisations must become foundation trusts by 2014 but to do that they have to meet strict criteria including proving they are financially sustainable and well governed.
The government has confirmed that St Helier Hospital does not meet the criteria and cannot become a Foundation Trust without merging. The only other NHS Trust interested in a merger is St George’s Hospital, Tooting.
Following questions from councillors, senior members of staff from NHS London confirmed that phase one of the redevelopment of St Helier would go ahead, despite the planned merger.
Councillors also quizzed them on what would happen if the St George’s bid was unsuccessful. They were told the board is already looking into the various scenarios, and Cllr. Colin Stears who represents the neighbouring ward of The Wrythe earned a promise that the council would be involved in these discussions.
Cllr. Stears said: “It was disappointing, but not surprising, that we did not receive the guarantees we had hoped for. The council was united in wanting assurances on the future of local A&E services, which look increasingly under threat in the light of this proposed merger.
“One positive outcome was the promise that the council would be involved in discussions from an early stage about the options for St Helier if the St George’s bid falls through. The lack on consultation with local people throughout this process has been extremely frustrating so I’m glad the trust is finally taking notice.”
Residents can have their say on the possible merger with St George’s until 11 November. A final recommendation, will be made by the transaction board which is overseeing the merger in January next year