The election campaign is over but the fight to ensure the future of St Helier Hospital and all other vital healthcare services in South-West London continues. While the KOSHH Party didn't win any seats on Merton or Sutton councils, the candidates all did well in the polls, campaigned hard, raised awareness about our health services among countless people and made St Helier Hospital and the role local councillors can play in ensuring its future a bona fide election issue.
During the campaign, we put a series of questions to the Epsom-St Helier Trust after we felt this interview in the Wimbledon Guardian with the trust's new Chief Executive raised more questions than it answered. At last, we have answers to our questions. Here they are, posted without futher comment and completely uncensored.
Firstly, I would like to say thank you for submitting these questions to us. We know that you are passionate about St Helier Hospital, and – having met some of your candidates at the public listening event we held in Merton earlier in the year – we hope that you can already see how committed we are to openness and transparency, as well as the day job of providing high quality care to our patients.
Our absolute priority is to provide great care to every patient, every day – and over the last three years we have performed very strongly against the standards the government expects of us. At the same time, we have made great headway in overcoming a significant deficit of almost £20 million and we plan to break even this year. That is an incredible achievement, and something that we as a Trust are very proud of.
However, we also understand that our estate is of great importance to local people, including our patients, visitors and staff. As such, we have provided detailed answers to your questions below.
In addition, once the local elections are completed later this month, we would like to invite you to visit St Helier, meet with our Chief Executive and go through any of the detail.
Has the calculation of £78 million for upgrades to St Helier Hospital allowed for inflation over the next five years?
The proposed investment of £78 million will be used across our hospitals, and is based on what our analysis shows we can afford during the next five years, whilst still meeting our financial obligations (such as paying staff and purchasing equipment).
As such, within this proposed figure we will need to allow for VAT (where we cannot reclaim it),
professional fees, and any inflation to the costs involved in construction. As always, we will make sure that we are getting the best value for money, so that our patients and the taxpayer will receive maximum benefit from any investment that we make.
Given that 12m has already been spent, can we please be told what this money has funded?
Every year, we spend approximately £9 million on improving and maintaining our hospital buildings as well as funding new state-of-the-art equipment.
In the last year alone, we saw benefits at all of our sites from improvements to the roof at Epsom Hospital, to new equipment in the operating theatre at St Helier.
You can see a full breakdown of previous plans at www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/investments.
In addition to the £9 million of improvements we funded last year, we were also awarded £4.5 million from the NHS Trust Development Authority to fund service transfers from Sutton Hospital to our two main sites (including the necessary improvement works at Epsom and St Helier). This has allowed us to create a combined outpatient department in Ferguson House and a new state of the art urology centre at Epsom, while improving the existing facilities at Sutton for blood-testing clinics, pain and chronic fatigue clinics and increasing the capacity of our car parks at both of the main sites.
The major refurbishment projects included:
• Completion of the urgent care centre at St Helier;
• £450,000 on general ward upgrades, including refurbishing the coronary care unit and the
kitchen on Buckley ward at Epsom Hospital;
• £250,000 creating additional single rooms for patients at both Epsom and St Helier, which offer increased privacy and help to protect our sickest patients from spreading or contracting infections;
• £1.1 million on general maintenance at St Helier Hospital, including replacing old windows
and roof maintenance across the hospital buildings;
• £100,000 on improving the system for piping gases (such as oxygen) to patients across
Can we please have a detailed breakdown of how the remaining £78 million will be spent? Is it a loan?
Early plans for how we will spend the proposed £78 million are currently going through the process of being approved by our Trust Board as part of our five-year business planning process. As you would expect, we are working closely with our clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Trust Development Authority during this process.
Investing such a significant amount of money into NHS services over a number of years requires a rigorous process for individual business cases, including external approval when required. It is likely that over the coming five years, there will be times when we will need to go through further approval processes (particularly for the larger projects we undertake). As such, we are not in a position to release a detailed breakdown at this stage.
However, please be assured that – as in previous years – our plans will be targeted at improving patient care either through new equipment, upgraded wards and facilities or specific projects such as the creation of a new eye-unit at St Helier. We will keep the public informed of all major upgrades as they progress.
Why is there no mention in the Sutton Guardian article of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in hospital spending? Given the CCGs have been assigned the task of reducing spending across multiple hospitals in SW London, it seems curious that they are conspicuous by their absence from the Sutton Guardian article.
As an acute Trust, we work really closely with all of our clinical commissioning groups and healthcare partners, and our Chief Executive certainly did make reference to their important role in her interview with the Sutton Guardian. We are always happy to talk to the Sutton Guardian though, so if there are burning questions you think they should be asking, please do let them know.