The healthcare review proposing to close Epsom Hospital’s A&E and maternity departments will have no responsibility for ensuring community health services are improved for the displaced patients, it has emerged.
The Better Services Better Value (BSBV) healthcare review has earmarked both Epsom and St Helier’s A&E, maternity and paediatric departments for closure a move which is reliant on more services being provided in the community.
However, in an video interview with this newspaper Dr Marilyn Plant, joint medical director for BSBV, revealed it is not within the review’s remit to draw up plans for community services - despite it being one of their key recommendations.
This will be left to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (local GPs), health and wellbeing boards and the local authorities.
Paul Burstow, the MP for Sutton and Cheam immediately condemned this as a "cop-out".
He said: "This is an incredibly slippery process and I’m shocked she’s making that claim at this stage - that BSBV has nothing to do with out of hospital care.
"I don’t think this is anything other than consolidation of services on fewer sites to create a few super hospitals."
In the interview Dr Plant said: "There’s an element of which comes first the chicken or the egg about it.
"Our review has been about making acute care safer. We know that we could have much safer acute care.
"The care in the community isn’t required to consult on. We can just deliver that."
She said the CCGs had been meeting across south west London and were developing their own plans to improve the way they provide community services but she admitted they had not done very well on that in the past.
It also emerged during the interview that GP surgeries could potentially specialise in different areas with patients being able to use all the surgeries.
Dr Plant added: "That would be one way forward but that’s something that has to be discussed and worked through once we have agreed to the reconfiguration.
"It doesn’t make sense to do it all at once in some ways.
"Although I understand that people feel we should put the community services in place before we change the acute.
"But if we did that we simply wouldn’t pass go really because we already have hospitals that are not financially sustainable so we have to do something and we can’t just let them stay static and deteriorate year on year."
Epsom health campaigner Jane Race said she was not aware that the BSBV team would not have responsibility to ensure that adequate community services are provided for displaced patients if the reforms go ahead, and that it is "disgraceful".
Mrs Race said: "It really is reckless behaviour to take services away without any replacement ideas whatever they may be.
"They are playing with people’s lives and it’s disgraceful.
"We have known all along that they have not done the work and there is no evidence for what they are suggesting.
"Residents will be shocked but they won’t be surprised.
"Epsom should not be in the BSBV process. It was shoved in at the last minute and it should be left alone."