Have your say on Epsom & St Helier proposals

24th January 2020

A public consultation has been launched on proposals to improve services at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trusts.

Members of the public are being asked for their views on three options to invest £500 million of national funding to build a new specialist emergency care hospital – on the Epsom, St Helier or Sutton hospital sites.

We are encouraging you to get involved in this consultation, which is being led by NHS Surrey Downs, NHS Sutton and NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). They are responsible for planning local healthcare services.

The consultation takes place from 8 January to 1 April 2020.

More information is available in Improving Healthcare Together’s summary and full consultation documents on their website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk.

Tell us what you think

As an organisation who is independent from the formal consultation, you can share your views directly with Healthwatch Surrey if you prefer by completing our survey. We are gathering feedback on the proposals. We will share this feedback with the Improving Healthcare Together team, and draw themes from your feedback and formally ask them to respond.

We received the following question to our Board in Public on 28th April 2020;

Could the board make a public statement on what actions it took to challenge the closure, rather than extension, of the consultation to downgrade Epsom and St Helier hospitals. The last month of the consultation came as Covid 19 struck meaning public events were cancelled. A post on social media by someone working for the Trust  but in a personal capacity very much indicated the downgrade and new Sutton critical care hospital was a done deal and the consultation was only to tick the boxes.

Given there was no response from the consultation officials to the public calling on them to extend the consultation because of Covid 19, ie no responses to emails or social media requests, and concerns by MPs brushed off, how can we be sure that decisions on the future of our much needed Epsom Hospital are not now being made by these people without scrutiny because attention is elsewhere due to the pandemic. Can Healthwatch Surrey reassure the public that it will be using its influence to ensure this will not happen.

It would appear there may be no money anyhow to finance super grand schemes in Sutton but the public in our part of Surrey need reassurance that those involved in this proposal are being scrutinised and A and E and other critical care beds will be retained.”

Kate Scribbins, Healthwatch Surrey CEO, made this statement in response to the question:

“Healthwatch Surrey has been involved for some time in the in the pre-consultation engagement and the consultation phase of the Improving Healthcare Together programme – making challenges to the process; liaising with the voluntary sector and community groups in Surrey to encourage participation, and ensuring we are aware of and can help escalate their concerns.  Our remit as a local Healthwatch in any major service change initiative is to work as a critical friend with decision-makers, to encourage them to make the process of engagement and consultation as inclusive as possible, and to challenge to ensure good practice is adopted throughout.   We have to remain neutral about any decisions taken. 

On the 31st March we challenged the IHT programme around their decision to carry on with the consultation and close it at midnight on 1st April, rather than pause it, given the COVID-19 situation.  We received detailed answers from commissioners to this challenge, and we will be involved in scrutiny of the results of the consultation at the next meeting of the Consultation Oversight Group, which we are part of.  We will be looking for reassurance that there has been a meaningful response to the consultation, which includes feedback from all our communities, and that the lockdown has not had a significant impact on response or affected one community more than any other, thereby putting them at a disadvantage.  We also sit on the Integrated Impact Assessment group for the programme where we are able to make challenges about how the decision makers identify and plan to mitigate impacts for those at risk of health inequalities and with protected characteristics. 

You are no doubt aware that there is a Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee which meets when needed to scrutinise the IHT programme.  I assume and hope that this committee will play a key role in deciding whether the decision-making process has been robust.  They have powers to refer the matter to the Secretary of State which go beyond local Healthwatch powers.  At present I do not have information about when this committee will next meet but we are trying to find out as it is important that there is transparent scrutiny of decision-making.”