Health bosses have been criticised for their refusal to break their silence over a decision to delay which hospitals’ accident and emergency departments in south west London they are recommending for closure.
The team behind the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review – which has recommended two hospitals in the region lose their A&E and maternity departments – met yesterday.
They were due to decide which hospitals should face the cuts, making a public announcement on their recommendations today.
But it emerged less than 24 hours prior to the meeting that the decision was to be postponed.
Yet the BSBV team refused to confirm this was the case throughout yesterday, and have still released no official statement as to why the decision has been delayed.
BSBV is unable to say when the programme board – the health experts leading the review - will now make their recommendation.
It is understood that mounting pressure on BSBV has caused them to delay the review further in order to carry out more “engagement” work in both Sutton and Surrey.
In yesterday’s programme board meeting NHS Surrey and Surrey CCG raised concerns that they had not been consulted enough on the process.
There was also a request from Dr Brendan Hudson, chairman of Sutton CCG, to do more engagement in Sutton as well.
BSBV refused to comment on whether the decision has been delayed because the review could face a legal challenge because of a lack of consultation in Surrey.
Their silence over their decision has left staff at Epsom and St Helier hospitals - the two hospitals expected to lose their maternity and A&E departments – still wondering where their future lies more than 18 months after the £4m review was launched.
BSBV’s failure to explain their decision publically has angered campaigners.
Leader of Sutton Council, Ruth Dombey, said: “This shambolic failure to reach a decision is intolerable to residents of the borough and also to staff at the hospital.
“People’s jobs and the future of healthcare in the region are at stake and for them to prolong the agony like this is simply unforgiveable.
“We will continue our campaign to preserve all services at St Helier Hospital for the good of people in Sutton and beyond.”
Mary Burstow, chairwoman of the health and well being scrutiny committee that is acting as a watchdog for the review locally, said: “They have agreed to do nothing. They are messing around staff at both Epsom and St Helier.
“BSBV has put the local NHS in limbo for the last two years and could potentially leave it in limbo for another two years before they finally do something.
“Staff haven’t got a clue what’s going on – they are playing with people’s lives and jobs. It’s just not on.”
The BSBV review was launched in May 2011 and has already cost at least £2m.
Last week a panel of health experts working for the review gathered behind closed doors to score which hospitals in SW London should lose their frontline services while a separate financial appraisal was also being carried out.
Sources revealed Epsom and St Helier Hospitals were the preferred option of the scoring panel to lose their services, with Croydon, St George’s and Croydon University hospitals retaining and expanding their accident and emergency and maternity departments.