KOSHH in the news! Featuring Tom Brake MP making curious statements...
KOSHH has made it to the front page of today's Sutton Guardian. It is always encouraging to get coverage in the media although we wish the future of our local health services was assured and we didn't have to keep waking people up to the real threats to St Helier Hospital, as well as other hospitals in south-west London and Sutton.
Click here for the link to the Sutton Guardian article.
It is curious that Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, is only now saying the £219m earmarked for St Helier Hospital's redevelopment is off the table. Has he been paying attention? This has been the case for quite some time now. Click here for a story on this from 2012 and click here for another story about the £219m from as far back as 2010.
The letter Brake received in August from Jeremy Hunt should surprise nobody.
Given that it is well known that local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been tasked with making "efficiency savings", it should come as no surprise to anybody who is paying attention that this money is not likely to be forthcoming. While it would certainly be more responsible to spend money properly upgrading St Helier Hospital instead of building a whole new hospital on the old Sutton Hospital site, at the expense of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals, as per the "traingate" leak, it is now apparent that we won't see a massively overhauled St Helier Hospital any time soon.
Yesterday was the closing date for public comments on the Epsom-St Helier Trust Estates Review document via the trust's website*. This document mentions £500m worth of investment is required. This would still work out cheaper than building a whole new hospital, along with the necessary road and public transport upgrades, for a new hospital on the Sutton site. That is a ridiculous plan which would mean at least 400 less beds for the local area and a hospital in a less convenient location than Epsom or St Helier.
It is also curious that Tom Brake described George Osborne's response to his question in the House of Commons about the future of St Helier Hospital as an "almost cast-iron guarantee". Leaving aside the metallic mystery as to what "almost cast-iron" is, a quick read of Hansard reveals that George Osborne simply gave a typical politician's answer in which no specific commitment was made and in which he was very careful to not actually mention the £219m sum.
Why did Tom Brake not make a bigger fuss about George Osborne's completely unsatisfactory non-answer at the time?
St Helier Hospital remains in limbo, with smaller upgrades taking place, but no overall plan in place to improve the site overall.
Furthermore, given that Tom Brake voted for the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which led to the creation of CCGs in the first place, why does he never attend CCG meetings to ask hard questions of the decision-makers who are spending our money? It would also be nice to see Tom Brake at Epsom-St Helier Trust board meetings too.
The CCGs, as well as the Epsom-St Helier Trust, need to be held publicly accountable for the way our tax pounds are spent and for their plans for the future of our essential local health services.
It is not just Tom Brake who should be doing this but all local MPs, regardless of political affiliation, and all local councilllors, especially those who campaigned on a platform of saving St Helier Hospital.
As we reported earlier this week, Merton CCG Chief Officer, Adam Doyle, was not prepared to make any public commitment to any of our local hospitals at last Thursday night's AGM. There are six CCGs, as part of South West London Collaborative Commissioning, involved in making decisions about our local health services. The lack of commitment to preserving our hospitals by Merton CCG is, most likely, the tip of the iceberg.
This story is far from over.
* A more detailed blog post on the Epsom-St Helier Trust Estates Review is coming soon.
Photography by Piotr Siedlecki