EVRA members and councillors attended yesterday the meeting in Bourne Hall organised by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council in relation to the future of Epsom and St. Helier Hospitals. We had a presentation by Daniel Elkeles, Chief Executive of the trust, and his team, and an extensive Q&A. Below a summary of the key issues discussed.
The trust has decided that the time is right for the hospitals to seek investment on their development going forward. Contrary to the view of some of the local people, they see Epsom and St. Helier as one hospital in two sites, and this is how the future is being looked at, rather as two individual hospitals. They are currently facing three main issues:
- Buildings – there is an extensive infrastructure backlog and most of the buildings have been deemed “not fit for purpose”.
- Clinical sustainability – There are simply not enough doctors, it is difficult to recruit and they end up having to use very expensive agency staff.
- Financial sustainability – They need to find ways to reduce costs and make savings in line with NHS guidelines and to be viable for the future they need to reduce the deficit and try to operate at break even.
What are the options and how much will they cost?
As a result there were several alternatives discussed and three are now being put to the public to gain support that investment is needed. In all three options the proposal is to build a new acute facility. The services to be brought together include major A&E, inpatient paediatrics, maternity and neonatal services and complex emergency medicine. This new unit is either going to be located at Epsom, St. Helier or in the old Sutton Hospital site next to the Royal Marsden Hospital. In order to do this they require an investment of between £300-£400 million from the NHS or private funding.
When asked what is the cost of each of the options, Lisa Thomson, director of communications and patient experience, mentioned that building the facility at Epsom is in the lower end of the scale, nearing £300 million, building a new facility in Sutton would costs nearer to £400 million and building it at St. Helier would be somewhere in between.
Why is land at the hospitals currently being sold?
In any of the options 85% of the services will remain at the hospitals and they hope that they can restructure the buildings and bring them up to a good standard. The current need for infrastructure investment is split 40% to Epsom and 60% to St. Helier. And the trust has now secured the sell of land in Sutton with the council that will 100% be reinvested in St. Helier. They are also expecting to receive £80 million funding for infrastructure backlog.
What happens to the old hospitals once the new unit has been built?
There are no plans to close any of the hospitals, we were told. In the 7 years that will take to have the new unit in place they expect capital investment, both from the NHS and land sale, would have been made to bring the hospitals to standard.
There would be 1000 beds in the two sites and only 500 required, so the wards could be reconfigured to bring better service to the patients that will still be treated at the hospitals’ sites.
Why can’t we keep acute units at each of the hospitals?
We were told that there are not enough doctors to provide 24hs service to our most acute patients. As an example Daniel explained that to provide 24hs obstetrics they need 20 consultants’ obstetricians in the rota. Currently between the two sites there are 22, so they have enough doctors in general but not to be able to provide the service at both sites. In addition it is not financially viable, even if they managed to recruit them.
How will they secure the money?
They will work towards securing the money from the £3 billion NHS infrastructure budget. Daniel mentioned that the hospitals haven’t received significant funding in a long time and it is now “our time”. However failing to achieve this private funding (bank loans) will be considered.
Are transport links being considered?
The trust is aware of the difficulties that some residents would face in getting to the new site, in the different locations. Transport will be considering in choosing the preferred option once the project is approved as viable by the government.
However they understand that there is no one solution that will suit all, and what they are asking is for people to make the effort of having, in some cases, to travel further to receive services, or visiting relatives in hospital, in order to receive better care than the one that they are able to provide now.
How can I find out more?
The trust has uploaded a summary leaflet, the presentation document and a video to their website, where more details about the proposal are available here. And there are several meeting still scheduled in the area.
What is EVRA doing?
Our councillors and our Chairman, Brian Angus, are keeping in close contact to the developments. We have issued a letter to the Trust that you can find here. And have maintained communications with Daniel Elkeles and the MP for Epsom and Ewell, Chris Grayling. You can find copies of these communications here.
We will keep our residents informed of any progress, and put pressure to ensure the most favourable outcome for our residents. But we also need your views and inputs on the matter and residents to get involved by sharing their views.