The much-anticipated £219m redevelopment of St Helier Hospital is ‘probably’ off the table, a shock announcement has revealed today.
The multi-million pound investment in the hospital was hailed as a ‘real victory for local residents’ when it was unveiled in 2010 including a brand new state-of-the-art hospital building, hundreds of new beds and a new day nursery.
A model of how the new hospital was expected to look
But an announcement today from the MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, revealed the promise is unlikely to go ahead.
A letter sent to Miss McDonagh, on January 24, from the chief officer of Merton Clinical Commissioning Group, Eleanor Brown, said the plans would need commissioner support as well as additional revenue costs which would “probably be unaffordable in the current financial context”.
She added: “It is for this reason that the re-development does not feature as one of the Long-Term Financial Modelling (LTFM) scenarios being worked up by the trust at this stage.”
The business plan was approved in 2010 by the government with chancellor George Osborne announcing the plans were safe amid concerns that it could be compromised during government cut-backs.
Over the last few years St Helier Hospital has been hampered by the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) healthcare review which has twice threatened to axe its A&E, maternity and children’s services. In the midst of the review, in 2012, the government stated the £219m investment was secure.
BSBV commonly referred to St Helier's redevelopment as a "fixed point" in the review and said they remained fully committed to it even if the the redevelopment was different to what was initially proposed.
BSBV's most recent plans collapsed at the end of last year and today's news is the first real indication the hospital will no longer receive the promised funds.
Miss McDonagh said: "This news represents an appalling betrayal by this government. St Helier is clearly still under threat of losing our A&E, maternity and other services, and now the redevelopment promised 4 years ago by the previous Government has also been taken off the table.
"Anyone who thinks the battle to Save St Helier is being won needs to think again, and the whole community must step up the fight to save this popular local hospital."
Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow blamed BSBV for causing delays to the rebuild of St Helier Hospital and said: “It is by no means the end of the road in terms of the rebuild.
“It’s a proposal that was made in 2008/9 and which got approved by the last government and signed off by the current government.
“Obviously it is based on assessments done a very long time ago. £219m is a misleading figure now.
“One thing the Epsom and St Helier Trust need to do with the public is to tell them what they are going to do.
“I share the disappointment many people have. But that disappointment should fall squarely with BSBV and the damage caused by uncertainty.”
Geoff Martin, chair of pressure group London Health Emergency, said: "This announcement comes as no surprise. We warned years ago that the redevelopment of St Helier was a con cooked up to fool local people and now we have been proved right.
"This betrayal of the people of Sutton rests with the government of which local MPs Brake and Burstow are members and no doubt they will cop the full wrath at the election for going along with this disgraceful charade.
"The rest of us will continue the fight to save our local hospital and the NHS from this governments cuts."
Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake said: “I am angry that in spite of reassurances at the time that the BSBV process wouldn’t impact on the Better Healthcare Closer to Home programme it was always clear it would in a dramatic way.
“The important thing now is to maintain pressure on the Sutton CCG to ensure they fight for the full range of services at St Helier Hospital.
"This is exactly where I am focusing my campaigning efforts."
A spokesperson for the Epsom and St Helier trust said until BSBV was concluded they could not confirm or speculate about any changes to the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital.
They said: “In the meantime, we, along with other NHS trusts across the country, are developing a business plan for the future of our hospitals, which provides details of how we will continue to provide high quality care in an affordable, efficient way.
"The business plans, which detail our two and five year plans and will include information on how we redevelop our hospitals, are yet to be approved by the Trust Board, our local commissioning groups and the NHS Trust Development Authority (the body which oversees all non-Foundation Trusts).
“We would like to reassure patients that, during this time of planning and approval, our priority will remain – as it always has – to provide each and every patient with compassionate, expert care.”
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