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Tim Hamilton, Director of Communications

Open letter to Epsom Guardian: £46,000 maternal weight management grant

We were extremely disappointed to read your representation of  the grant secured by the Maternity team at Epsom and St Helier hospitals (published online 29 January and in print 4 February, titled ‘Epsom and St Helier midwives secure maternity funding, but campaigners fear for hospitals' future’), in which you took a very positive piece of news (given to you by our press team) and used it as an opportunity  to needlessly and irresponsibly call into doubt the future of our hospitals whilst undermining the achievements of our staff.

It is important to point out that the claim made in the first line of the article stating our maternity units ‘faced closured just under a year ago’ is completely without foundation, and we do not understand what timeline or review your journalist is referring to.  The trust has communicated openly and regularly about our ongoing commitment to both Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital continuing to provide consultant led, 24/7 A&E, maternity and inpatient paediatric services, as outlined in our five year strategy.

I would also like to take this opportunity to address some of the quotes from the Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) campaigners, which questioned how long this funding could last, why we are relying on charities for investment and the plan for long-term funding for the service.

Let me be clear – our hospitals have a turnover of more than £330 million per year. This £46,000 grant isn’t designed to go towards our running costs and nor is it a replacement for long-term investment. This money was secured as a result of the already outstanding work of our highly successful weight management service (Cedar Clinic), and the efforts of some of our specialist midwives in recognising an opportunity to grow this service and make it available to more women than ever before. The funding is for a one year project, the results of which will then be audited in order to identify opportunities for developing a permanent expansion of the service.

We would have been more than happy to clarify those points raised and answer any further questions from the journalist or KOSHH before the article was published, had we been approached. The Communications Team operate a 24/7 service, and we are always happy to help.

Furthermore, the claim that the additional exercise classes will be led by Slimming World is also false. The original press release, on which the article published is (too loosely) based makes it clear that the midwives involved are seeking to take a long-term approach to the support they provide, whereby they empower women and provide access to additional resources (including external services beyond what hospitals can offer) in order to enable individuals to make lasting changes to their health and wellbeing. As part of the individualised approach this service has adopted, Slimming World membership is by referral only, ie those for whom this additional support is considered beneficial, and is funded for a limited period only (12 weeks). The Cedar Clinic continues to be led by trust midwives.

While we respect and are grateful for any support that KOSHH and the local media provide our hospitals, the approach adopted on this occasion is very disappointing. Rather than seeking further comment or clarification from the trust, the gaps were filled with commentary that, either deliberately or ignorantly, failed to understand the work of the Burdett Trust and the true nature of grants that allow for research or pilot projects that provide opportunity for the possible development of trust services for the benefit of hundreds of people. 

Tim Hamilton
Director of Communications

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