Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tuesday 27th May 10am

Epsom & St Helier Women & Children’s Services Review             

Feedback Stakeholder Event  

There weren’t quite so many attendees at this event as at the previous one, but still a good selection of stakeholders. Paul Burstow MP was again in attendance, in stark contrast to the absence of Chris Grayling and other Conservative MPs representing Surrey constituencies. Chris et al had made a big point about their non-attendance at the previous event as they believed that the decision had already been made and there was no ‘real’ consultation. I fail to see the sense in this stance; how can they make that assessment without attending these events, listening to the views expressed and then reviewing the final decision process to see whether the views expressed had been properly considered? They are expressing a view before gathering any evidence to substantiate it. It only confirms my opinion that Mr Grayling is more concerned with headlines than seeing any real improvements to women’s & children’s services. When the NCT wrote to him expressing concern that his press statements on maternity services were presenting a misinformed picture of labour & birth, his response was on the lines of, “we mustn’t let the facts get in the way of a good political campaign.”


The first part of the meeting was a presentation of the reconfigured options and some new options based on the feedback received from the various pre-consultation events. I was very pleased to see that not only did the two options for consolidating maternity services at either the Epsom or St Helier sites now include a midwife-led unit co-located with the consultant-led unit, but also a stand alone midwife-led unit at the other site, thereby ensuring some form of birthing unit at both sites. This was an excellent example of the board taking into account views from the previous meeting. However the options have yet to pass the viability test, and I suspect that these options in particular will face modification as a result.


Another popular option that apparently came out of the discussions with local parents & potential parents was for a new women & children’s unit to be built at Sutton Hospital. This however was not the easy solution it appeared to be. There are benefits of co-location of services such as shared medical & clinical support. If a separate women & children’s unit were to be established there would need to be further staff recruited to provide this additional support. As a separate unit there would be under-utilisation of this staff which would not be cost-efficient. Concern was expressed that as this was not a viable proposal it should not be presented as an option as it raised expectations unnecessarily.


Some emphasis was made at the meeting of the fact that the Head of Midwifery for Epsom & St Helier was now at the table. The absence of any midwives from the previous event had been commented on and Ms Manders presence was cited as proof that this view had been listened to and acted on. I later found out that the Head of Midwifery had ‘gatecrashed’ the event on her own initiative. She felt it was important for her to be there but apparently the programme board did not!


On arrival at the meeting attendees found that they had been allocated to numbered tables. After the presentations the tables took park in workshops and were told to discuss either children’s services or maternity services. Which table discussed what was pre-determined. When we were given feedback from the discussions I was quite surprised by the priorities that had been given to maternity services (my table had been allocated children’s services). Affordability and sustainability were apparently in the top priorities, but patient choice was not a priority at all. This was in contrast to my table’s discussions which had concluded that these issues were down to the PCTs to resolve after considering stakeholder’s specific requirements for quality of care and patient choice. I should note here that there was a PCT commissioner of services on my table and he agreed with this view. I later discovered that of the four NCT reps at the event, all four had ended up on children’s services not maternity services. I am perhaps being unduly suspicious but I would be interested to see just who was allocated to which topic.


 The presentation given to the meeting is available at: 




June 1, 2008 - Posted by | Meeting

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