Over the last few days you may have read reports claiming that there are plans for consultation on the closure of St Helier Hospital. These reports are completely inaccurate – there are no plans to close St Helier Hospital.
Last year we launched our five year strategy which outlined how we will build on our strengths and gave the commitment that both Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital will continue to provide consultant led, 24/7 A&E, maternity and inpatient paediatric services for five years.
Developing and publishing our five year strategy has provided certainty to our patients, public and staff on the future. As a result, we have increased the number of clinical staff by almost 350, which has in turn resulted in our agency rate being halved and our agency nurse spend reducing by 70%. However, we know that we have to look further ahead to 2020 and beyond.
The biggest challenge we now face is the state of our buildings. We published our Estates Strategy in June 2015, which reviewed our current estate and identified the challenges we face with our buildings. Our buildings are now in the 10 worst for critical infrastructure backlog maintenance in England, 43% of our clinical space is deemed not suitable to provide patient care and we have half the number of single rooms we should have to provide an infection free environment. This means we are spending more than £5m a year more than we should do on keeping our buildings safe and clean.
Replacing our buildings is going to require hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and it is important that we get this absolutely right for our patients in order that we can provide them with the highest quality of care that we can. The support of our communities will help us to secure the required funding. Therefore we have engaged extensively with hundreds of patients, local people and staff to understand what is important to them in terms of hospital buildings and facilities. It is important to be clear that, contrary to recent reports, we have not arrived at a preferred scenario and none of the potential scenarios involve closing either St Helier Hospital or Epsom Hospital.
In the next phase of the work we will need to engage people in discussions on potential scenarios. This will need to follow and complement the national planning process to implement NHS Five Year Forward View. The NHS in both South West London and Surrey Heartlands are working with their local authorities on a long term plan for local services - all NHS regions across the country are required to do this, and each region is producing a five-year plan called the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). This work is being jointly carried out by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), hospitals, community health services and mental health trusts, with the support of local councils and members of the public. In order to ensure that our estates review complements the STP vision, any further engagement on our estate will wait until this process has been completed.
We would like to apologise for any confusion or concern this may have caused, and once again assure you that there are no plans to close either Epsom or St Helier hospitals.