'Epsom and St Helier hospitals should be split up now', says MP @epsom_sthelier
5th December 2012
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Epsom and St Helier Hospitals should be split up immediately to ensure a future for Epsom Hospital, MP Chris Grayling said today (4th December).

Mr Grayling told the Epsom Guardian he is deeply concerned about the "unacceptable financial confusion" surrounding the finances of Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust.

He believes the £13.8 million deficit at Epsom Hospital - cited as the reason for the collapse of its proposed merger with Ashford and St Peter’s hospital - is actually "running at a rate of only half that level" - information he said he discovered from a confidential source within the trust.

Last week he privately called for the Transaction Board, the body, which was exploring alternative options for Epsom Hospital, not to be disbanded.

But when his request was ignored he decided to speak out - sending a letter to the head of NHS London - see below.

He fears Epsom Hospital will now be "consumed within the melting pot" of the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review of hospitals across South West London - which, prior to the collapse of the Epsom Hospital merger, had already targeted St Helier to be stripped of its A&E, children’s and maternity units. The review is now going back to the drawing board so that it can factor in the likelihood of Epsom and St Helier still being linked.

Speaking to the Epsom Guardian this afternoon, Mr Grayling said: "The position is that Epsom will be consumed into the melting pot of the BSBV review, as part of which the decision has already been taken, in principle, to turn St Helier into a ‘cold site’. 

"My fear is if Epsom is put into that melting pot, its future will become a side issue for most of those involved in the process and it will be very easy for Epsom to be pushed aside and for it to lose its services to London or other Surrey hospitals.

"Having discovered that the deficit figures weren’t accurate, the decision-makers should be going back to the transaction board to find a partner for Epsom.  Why has that process now stopped?"

He said the trust should be split "now" and alternative options for Epsom Hospital explored, including the possibility of private management.

He added: "What I want is for the divorce between Epsom and St Helier to happen now and for Epsom to be put back into a transactional process to find a future partner which could either be another NHS trust - Ashford and St Peter’s may well be interested again now it has emerged the figures were incorrect - or it may mean a private organisation coming in to run Epsom as a NHS hospital, like Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridge.

"I want Epsom to be managed in the interests of Epsom, for it to be turned around and for its position to be strengthened, which I don’t think will happen if it’s buried in the BSBV review."

Mr Grayling said the option of bringing in a private organisation to run Epsom as an NHS hospital "absolutely does not" amount to it being turned into a private hospital.

He added: "If the only solution is to bring in a private company’s management skills, then we need to consider new perspectives and not rule anything out.

"If we want to keep Epsom Hospital then GPs, the people who are now commissioning healthcare in Surrey, need to be told that people want Epsom hospital to provide services.

"The message is ‘use it or lose it’."

A spokesman for Epsom Hospital said: “We note the concerns Mr Grayling has raised and, like him, we are absolutely committed to finding a financially sustainable future for our hospitals. 

"As such, we have been in regular contact with him and have offered to meet him to discuss this further.

“It is important to note that the financial data used to halt the merger was supplied by a team of independent expert auditors and, as they predicted, our finances could be subject to change for the better or the worse throughout the year.

“At the time of halting the merger, our deficit was predicted to be £19.4 million - at the end of March 2013.  On Friday, our Trust Board will hear that this has been reduced by £2.6 million to £16.8 million, with the main reason being that we are treating more patients than expected.

“However, it is important to remember that this is still a considerable deficit and that our financial position was not the only reason for halting the merger. 

"Other reasons included how much money Epsom Hospital would receive in the future, as even more work is undertaken in the local community, for instance by GPs. 

"Another factor was a reduction in the level of financial synergies - plans to reduce expenditure and increase income - proposed by Ashford and St Peter's as part of their vision for the future of Epsom.”

Article from Hardeep Matharu at  suttonguardian

See Mr Grayling’s letter to his constituents and to to Ruth Carnell, chief executive of NHS London

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