Services 'here to stay' at St Helier, pledges new chief executive

This Is Local London: Chrisha Alagaratnam Chrisha Alagaratnam

St Helier Hospital is here to stay and there are no plans to lose services - that is the message coming from its new chief executive.

After years of financial problems, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust is now breaking even new chief executive Chrisha Alagaratnam, who has a background in accountancy and was previously the trust's financial director, said that, combined with high patient satisfaction ratings, should protect the hospitals' services in any future reviews.

This Is Local London:

Chrisha Alagaratnam talks to reporter Mike Murphy-Pyle

Services at St Helier Hospital were placed under threat by the controversial Better Services Better Value review, a cost-cutting programme that proposed axing maternity and A&E services.

But that was scrapped earlier this year and, although a future review is planned, it is hoped the hospital's new-found financial stability will mean services are safe.

The trust has implemented a range of cost-saving policies in the past three years that have helped it go from a predicted £19million deficit to a £7.4million deficit last year and break-even point this year.

During an interview with the Sutton Guardian, Ms Alagaratnam said: "This year we're posting a break-even position. We've been on trajectory for this for the last three years.

"The best thing about it is that we've been able to improve the quality of care in that time."

She said the cost savings had been achieved through various means, particularly cutting down the use of agency staff and sharing facilities across the two sites.

She added: "There have been 11 strategic reviews in the last nine or 10 years, and BSBV was the latest.

"From the trust's point of view, for the last few months we've just been working on our own plan to make sure the trust has a viable future - breaking even is an important part of that.

"The best thing we can do is to continue to provide care to patients and to make sure our finances are continuing to improve.

"We're here to stay. This is a brilliant hospital and we have fantastic staff and fantastic volunteers."

St Helier was also dealt a blow recently when plans to invest £219million for a large-scale redevelopment of the site were shelved. Ms Alagaratnam said that plan was first revealed in 2009 and that since then situations have changed but there is a plan to invest £78 million over upgrades in the next five years.

She also said the trust has a five-year plan that does not involve St Helier and Epsom Hospitals separating - despite doctors in Surrey voting to leave BBSBV while doctors in Sutton remained in support of it.

She added: "There's no reason for them to split up - we are strong as a trust."

Comments (13)

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12:00pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Forty_two says...

Strikes me as a "nothing to see here, move along" message.
Strikes me as a "nothing to see here, move along" message. Forty_two
  • Score: 3

12:51pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Georgia Lewis says...

This report raises more questions than it answers.

There was going to be a £219m investment in St Helier Hospital. A few weeks ago, we were told it would be £90m over five years. And now this report says it will be just £78m over five years (or just £15.6m a year). What is going on? Why does the figure keep dropping like an auction in reverse? Has inflation been taken into account when arriving at this ever-decreasing figure? And can we see a breakdown of how the £78m might be spent?
This report raises more questions than it answers. There was going to be a £219m investment in St Helier Hospital. A few weeks ago, we were told it would be £90m over five years. And now this report says it will be just £78m over five years (or just £15.6m a year). What is going on? Why does the figure keep dropping like an auction in reverse? Has inflation been taken into account when arriving at this ever-decreasing figure? And can we see a breakdown of how the £78m might be spent? Georgia Lewis
  • Score: 7

1:51pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Michael Pantlin says...

Is this latest pledge to be believed more than the retratred pledge spelt out on the huge banner now removed?
Is this latest pledge to be believed more than the retratred pledge spelt out on the huge banner now removed? Michael Pantlin
  • Score: 7

2:02pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Michael Pantlin says...

I am storing a copy of this "pledge" on my computer so that in the future I can compare it to the real outcome.
I am storing a copy of this "pledge" on my computer so that in the future I can compare it to the real outcome. Michael Pantlin
  • Score: 7

2:05pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Tiz North says...

Where will the £78 million come from to invest over the next 5 years? Is it a loan that has to be paid back ? Especially worrying if the hospital has only just reached break even point.
Where will the £78 million come from to invest over the next 5 years? Is it a loan that has to be paid back ? Especially worrying if the hospital has only just reached break even point. Tiz North
  • Score: 4

2:43pm Mon 28 Apr 14

rivacrelad says...

Meanwhile the amount of taxpayers’ cash spent on foreign development projects has soared by 65 per cent over the last decade to a massive £8.3billion last year.

The increase is more than double that of the G8 group of nations, made up of the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy, Canada and the US, as a whole.

That's ok then as long as someone is benefitting from all our hard work.
Our local hospital that so many people rely on is spending a measly £78 million over 5 years when it's in a dire straight. Going there is like going back in time to the 60's. Absolute disgrace..
Meanwhile the amount of taxpayers’ cash spent on foreign development projects has soared by 65 per cent over the last decade to a massive £8.3billion last year. The increase is more than double that of the G8 group of nations, made up of the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy, Canada and the US, as a whole. That's ok then as long as someone is benefitting from all our hard work. Our local hospital that so many people rely on is spending a measly £78 million over 5 years when it's in a dire straight. Going there is like going back in time to the 60's. Absolute disgrace.. rivacrelad
  • Score: -3

6:34pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Pippa Maslin says...

I am very glad to hear that Ms. Alagaratnam feels the trust's finances are in good order.

I am also pleased to hear her speak highly of the hospital.

However, so far as I can see, the local community has never received a satisfactory explanation as to why the £219m that was promised, has been reduced to £78m, and I think I speak for many when I say that a detailed explanation (perhaps from Ms. Alagaratnam?) is in order - an explanation which should be published in all of the Guardian newspapers for South West London.

Furthermore, it is, shall we say, interesting that the headline 'Services "here to stay" at St Helier, pledges new chief executive' is followed hard upon by the phrase, 'there are no plans to lose services'. The headline makes it sound as if St Helier will never ever lose any services; the aforementioned phrase is somewhat more tentative and puts me in mind of a line in a letter that I received from the Chief Officer and Clinical Chair of Merton Clinical Commissioning Group, Eleanor Brown and Dr. Howard Freeman, on 10th March 2014 – ‘there are currently no proposals to change services at St Helier Hospital (or any of our local hospitals).’ Bearing in mind that the local community is awaiting yet another strategy from the South West London Collaborative Commissioning Group (which is made up of Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston, and Croydon Clinical Commissioning Groups) – a strategy that is to be released in June – forgive me if I leave off cracking open the Champagne.

In fact, I found it astounding that the article/Ms. Alagaratnam makes no mention of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups when it comes to services at St Helier Hospital. They are busy ‘configuring’ and ‘reconfiguring’ health services in the local community, having been instructed by the coalition to reduce their spending by 24%, and so, surely, any discussion of services at the hospital should necessarily include an explanation of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups.
I am very glad to hear that Ms. Alagaratnam feels the trust's finances are in good order. I am also pleased to hear her speak highly of the hospital. However, so far as I can see, the local community has never received a satisfactory explanation as to why the £219m that was promised, has been reduced to £78m, and I think I speak for many when I say that a detailed explanation (perhaps from Ms. Alagaratnam?) is in order - an explanation which should be published in all of the Guardian newspapers for South West London. Furthermore, it is, shall we say, interesting that the headline 'Services "here to stay" at St Helier, pledges new chief executive' is followed hard upon by the phrase, 'there are no plans to lose services'. The headline makes it sound as if St Helier will never ever lose any services; the aforementioned phrase is somewhat more tentative and puts me in mind of a line in a letter that I received from the Chief Officer and Clinical Chair of Merton Clinical Commissioning Group, Eleanor Brown and Dr. Howard Freeman, on 10th March 2014 – ‘there are currently no proposals to change services at St Helier Hospital (or any of our local hospitals).’ Bearing in mind that the local community is awaiting yet another strategy from the South West London Collaborative Commissioning Group (which is made up of Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston, and Croydon Clinical Commissioning Groups) – a strategy that is to be released in June – forgive me if I leave off cracking open the Champagne. In fact, I found it astounding that the article/Ms. Alagaratnam makes no mention of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups when it comes to services at St Helier Hospital. They are busy ‘configuring’ and ‘reconfiguring’ health services in the local community, having been instructed by the coalition to reduce their spending by 24%, and so, surely, any discussion of services at the hospital should necessarily include an explanation of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups. Pippa Maslin
  • Score: 10

6:45pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Pippa Maslin says...

'found' should have been 'find' - apologies for the error
'found' should have been 'find' - apologies for the error Pippa Maslin
  • Score: 2

6:52pm Mon 28 Apr 14

Pippa Maslin says...

Also, when I say 'I think I speak for many', it is worth mentioning that I am a member of both the Lower Morden Residents Save St Helier Hospital Group and the KOSHH (Keep Our St Helier Hospital) campaign - the latter of which is an umbrella group to unite all groups campaigning to retain all services at the hospital.
Also, when I say 'I think I speak for many', it is worth mentioning that I am a member of both the Lower Morden Residents Save St Helier Hospital Group and the KOSHH (Keep Our St Helier Hospital) campaign - the latter of which is an umbrella group to unite all groups campaigning to retain all services at the hospital. Pippa Maslin
  • Score: 7

11:08am Tue 29 Apr 14

Forty_two says...

Wow, very well said Pippa.

May I suggest you email your entire comment above to the editor, this is worthy of a story in itself.

Well done.
Wow, very well said Pippa. May I suggest you email your entire comment above to the editor, this is worthy of a story in itself. Well done. Forty_two
  • Score: 5

1:20pm Tue 29 Apr 14

David A says...

The message in this article is as reliable as Cameron's pledge "No top down reorganisation of the NHS". It is not in the gift of the Trust to give any assurances about the future availability of services at St Helier Hospital. Anyone who has followed the disgraceful behaviour of SW London Clinical Commissioning Boards will know that the piecemeal transfer of services from hospitals to other providers is ongoing and is likely continue. The only uncertainty, unless public opposition is successful, is whether that process or use of clause 119 will win the race to close St Helier. The article is promulgating misleading PR. The Trust needs to be asked to tell the public how many hospital beds have been taken away since the last general election, how many nursing and other clinical posts have been cut, how much income has been cut due to the transfer out of services etc etc. The answers to such questions need to be published at least as prominently as the article, along with a correction to the untrue impression being put about that clause 119 only affects failing hospitals. It was added to the legislation specifically to permit the forced closure of successful hospitals like St Helier.
The message in this article is as reliable as Cameron's pledge "No top down reorganisation of the NHS". It is not in the gift of the Trust to give any assurances about the future availability of services at St Helier Hospital. Anyone who has followed the disgraceful behaviour of SW London Clinical Commissioning Boards will know that the piecemeal transfer of services from hospitals to other providers is ongoing and is likely continue. The only uncertainty, unless public opposition is successful, is whether that process or use of clause 119 will win the race to close St Helier. The article is promulgating misleading PR. The Trust needs to be asked to tell the public how many hospital beds have been taken away since the last general election, how many nursing and other clinical posts have been cut, how much income has been cut due to the transfer out of services etc etc. The answers to such questions need to be published at least as prominently as the article, along with a correction to the untrue impression being put about that clause 119 only affects failing hospitals. It was added to the legislation specifically to permit the forced closure of successful hospitals like St Helier. David A
  • Score: 7

1:22pm Tue 29 Apr 14

Pippa Maslin says...

David A - if you have time to submit your comment to the letters section, that would be great. I've tweaked mine and sent it in. You are spot on!
David A - if you have time to submit your comment to the letters section, that would be great. I've tweaked mine and sent it in. You are spot on! Pippa Maslin
  • Score: 7

10:58am Thu 1 May 14

Georgia Lewis says...

rivacrelad, please lets not make this a discussion about foreign aid. The fact of the matter is that the UK can afford to be a responsible global citizen with foreign aid and have a robust NHS. A step towards this would be to ensure all corporate tax was collected rather than letting big companies do seedy deals with the Chancellor to negotiate a lower rate.

And before anyone weighs in with a comment about immigration, it is important to remember the valuable contribution immigrants make to keeping the NHS running. Indeed, even if we ended up living in some sort of bizarro world where immigration stopped tomorrow (and I hope that is never the case), we would still have the need for a NHS that looks after the people of Britain.

It is more constructive to focus on the unanswered questions in this article and the fact that the CEO has not discussed the role of CCGs in the future of the hospital.
rivacrelad, please lets not make this a discussion about foreign aid. The fact of the matter is that the UK can afford to be a responsible global citizen with foreign aid and have a robust NHS. A step towards this would be to ensure all corporate tax was collected rather than letting big companies do seedy deals with the Chancellor to negotiate a lower rate. And before anyone weighs in with a comment about immigration, it is important to remember the valuable contribution immigrants make to keeping the NHS running. Indeed, even if we ended up living in some sort of bizarro world where immigration stopped tomorrow (and I hope that is never the case), we would still have the need for a NHS that looks after the people of Britain. It is more constructive to focus on the unanswered questions in this article and the fact that the CEO has not discussed the role of CCGs in the future of the hospital. Georgia Lewis
  • Score: 5

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