Welcome to the official online home of the KOSHH campaign
It has been a long time coming but at last it is here - the official blog of the Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) campaign - the campaign to keep St Helier Hospital open with all its services intact. We also recognise the importance of keeping Epsom Hospital open. Our end of London and Surrey needs both hospitals to be run properly, funded properly and for both sites to receive much-needed upgrades to meet the needs of our communities in the 21st Century and beyond.
We have fought many battles over the past few years and we thought we might get some rest when the Better Services, Better Values programme - which threatened services such as A&E, maternity and renal - was kicked into the long grass. How wrong we were. Just before the election, the now-infamous "traingate" leak happened - the BBC broke the story of consultants overheard on a train to Waterloo discussing plans to close Epsom and St Helier Hospitals and open a so-called "super hospital" at the site of the old Sutton Hospital. That would be the Sutton Hospital that has been gradually closing down in recent years.
But apart from ripping away two hospitals, strategically located to serve people in our area, the "super hospital" would not be so super at all. According to the leak, it would have 800 beds - a reduction in the number of beds for the area. We have no details on exactly what services would be on offer, whether these services would be publicly run or farmed out to private companies, how much this would all cost, how much has been spent on private consultancy firms already, and whether any costings have even begun to factor in things like the massive road and public transport upgrades that would be required for the Sutton proposal to become a reality.
We met with the Epsom-St Helier Trust CEO, Daniel Elkeles, a few months ago in good faith. At no point was the Sutton proposal mentioned. We find it very hard to believe he wouldn't have known anything about it when we met with him. This is very disappointing indeed.
But it is the Clinical Commissioning Groups - known as CCGs - that hold the pursestrings. Ever since the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was passed at Westminster, these groups, made up of clinicians, are the ones making the big decisions about how our money is spent and how our health services are provided. These groups need to be lobbied hard and held accountable.
Neither our MPs, local councillors, the Health Secretary or Daniel Elkeles are in a position to guarantee the security of our services. This is why we urge MPs and local councillors to attend CCG meetings whenever they can, as well as members of the public.
Of course, finding the times of CCG meetings is difficult and this is something else that needs to be changed. What we do know is they are almost always held during office hours, which makes it hard for many people to attend. This also needs to change.
In light of the leak about a possible hospital on the Sutton site at the expense of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals, we need to know whether Sutton Council can dispose of this land for other purposes, such as education or affordable housing. This is urgent.
We are calling for proper investment in both Epsom and St Helier Hospitals so they can continue to provide the vital services we all depend on. Cutting vital services such as A&E, maternity, renal and the children's hospital will impact on us all and overburden St Georges Hospital in Tooting, a hospital that, like Epsom and St Helier, is doing great work but in very trying circumstances.
We want our money to be spent wisely. We are deeply concerned about the impact of outsourcing services, such as facilities management and non-emergency ambulances, to the private sector. The increased use of agency nurses - which costs a fortune - instead of properly employing nurses on a permanent basis is another serious issue that needs to be addressed.
We do not want our money wasted on yet another consultancy that is a re-run of Better Services, Better Value - only this time, entire hospital closures are the real risk.
We have a lot to do. We have a big fight ahead of us. This blog will be a place where you can find out more about the KOSHH campaign, ways you can help fight to keep our hospitals open and upcoming events. Feel free to comment at the end of the blog posts. We welcome open discussion.
KOSHH has members from a range of backgrounds, we are not a political party and we are not a front for any other political party.
Feel free to share this blog with family and friends. All posts are open to the public for comments. Constructive comments and debate are welcome.