Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Thursday 2nd October 7.30pm

Merton, Sutton & Surrey Joint Health Scrutiny Committee

The sole focus of this evening’s meeting was to receive an update on the Better Healthcare Closer to Home programme.


After some years of floundering at the ‘good idea’ stage with few fully worked up plans for practical implementation the programme has made rapid progress in the last few months under the steerage of Stephen Waring the new programme director.


Although a somewhat shrunken vision which now concentrates only on Sutton & Merton (Surrey has developed its own healthcare modal Fit for the Future), and with plans for refurbishment of St Helier Hospital rather than a brand new build, we were pleased to at last be presented with Outline Business Cases for the main elements of the programme. These plans gave detailed descriptions of what services would be provided at the four proposed Local Care Centres (Shotfield, Wallington; The Nelson; The Wilson & a new centre at St Helier); what specifically would be reprovided in the new-build part of St Helier, and plans for the next stage of St Helier refurbishment to include an urgent care centre.


The update was presented by a panel of NHS executives involved with the programme and included Stephen Waring, Bill Gillespie Chief Executive of Sutton & Merton Primary Care Trust, Sam Jones Chief Executive of Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust, Martyn Wake Sutton & Merton PCT Medical Director, Dr Jonathan Kwan Epsom & St Helier Medical Director and Pippa Hart Epsom & St Helier Director of Nursing and Care Standards.


We were advised that the outline business cases had received approval from the various trust boards and was now set to go to NHS London, the regional body, for approval. The panel advised that this may be their last chance to obtain the funding for the project because the delays up to this point may mean that any further delay could result in this project being overlooked in favour of further advanced programmes elsewhere in the region.


The programme fitted in well with other healthcare changes such as the D’Arzi proposals and recent white papers such as ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’ so it was expected to be approved by the London NHS body.


My first question was what plans were in place to monitor the outcomes of the proposed changes to check that they did indeed meet the objectives of the programme which were to improve patient experience and provide better accessibility to a range of services? Unfortunately I was feeling unwell and as a result I suspect that the thrust of my question got a bit lost so the answer I received didn’t quite fit the question. The response from the panel was that the planned improvements were based on evidence and studies which supported providing healthcare in local settings with particular emphasis on providing facilities in areas of depravation to help address health inequalities.


Other committee members received assurances that there would still be capital finding available to make improvements to Epsom Hospital.


I asked whether the PCT would continue to support the intermediate care beds currently provided at Ludlow Lodge in Wallington, to which the response was that the support would only continue until the opening of the Wilson’s intermediate care centre. This was disappointing as with the plans for intermediate care beds to be provided at Carshalton War Memorial Hospital dropped the majority of intermediate care facilities will be in Merton. This is slightly tempered by the fact that 80% of intermediate care is planned to be provided in people’s homes.


I was dismayed when a Surrey member of the committee raised the suggestion that the outline business plans might represent a significant variation in service which would require formal consultation. The Sutton Chair Cllr. Gordon-Bullock stated his agreement that they might be interpreted this way.


I had to step in and articulate that whilst the changes may well be significant in respect to the proposed delivery of services, there had been a full and extensive formal consultation on the proposals in 2004. As the objectives had not changed from the beginning of the project that consultation was still relevant and satisfied the obligations of the NHS bodies. There had been overwhelming support for the principles of the Better Healthcare Closer to Home programme and these outline business cases simply represented the practical implementation of those principles. I doubted that the public would be happy to see yet another consultation on the issue and would much rather see the trusts getting on with the improvements. The panel stated that they believed that the delay caused by going to consultation once again might jeopardise the whole programme.


Fortunately the committee unanimously agreed with me and voted against calling for a further consultation.


Lib Dem Councillors Dave Callaghan and Sheila Andrews were also at this committee and as representatives of St Helier ward they both put in passionate pleas for improvements to the hospital building and welcomed all plans for new facilities at the site. It was disappointing to learn that although other elements of the programme would start immediately, it was expected to be 5 to 7 years before we would see major work starting at St Helier Hospital.



October 27, 2008 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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