The London Ambulance Service has revealed alarming journey time figures to Sutton Councillors.

[ Heather, Paul Burstow MP and Richard demonstrating their opposition to the threatened closure of of the Accident and Emergency Department, outside St. Helier hospital ]

Alarming figures from London Ambulance Service stunned Councillors at the special meeting, attended by Heather, of Sutton Council’s Scrutiny Committee, a meeting focusing on St Helier Hospital, on Monday June 11.

Bill Arkell, Operations Manager for Sutton and Streatham, shocked the meeting by revealing that journey times for emergency patients will more than double if St Helier’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) ward is closed.

Currently, the average journey time to St Helier is 8.5 minutes. Under the new proposals that will soar to 14-15 minutes to St George’s in Tooting, 16-17 minutes to Kingston and up to 20 minutes to Croydon Hospital.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Mary Burstow, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, said: “These are truly alarming figures. Report after report has shown that the quicker people get treatment the better the outcome. Doubling journey times can only put Sutton residents at greater risk.”

The well-attended meeting also heard that turnaround time – how long it takes from an ambulance arriving at a hospital to being ready to go on another call – is 15 minutes or less on average at St. Helier Hospital, again half the time of neighbouring hospitals.

Councillor Burstow added: “In light of these figures, it is absolutely astonishing that Better Services Better Value (BSBV) [the NHS body that recommended closure of St. Helier’s Accident and Emergency Department] didn’t bother to ask seek wider views and opinions.”

The BSBV panel last month recommended that St Helier Hospital’s A&E, maternity and children’s wards should be closed – leaving St George’s, Kingston and Croydon to deal with the patients.

St Helier would instead become a centre for planned operations.

Age UK Sutton, which represents around 27,000 people – and Sutton Carers – which has 4,500 registered members looking after thousands of people – also told the meeting that they had also not been consulted before BSBV made its recommendations.

In robust exchanges between councillors and Rachel Tyndall, BSBV Senior Responsible Officer, and Mike Bailey, Acute Medical Director for BSBV, Sutton Council Leader Ruth Dombey referred to previous threats to St Helier saying: “We have been through years of uncertainty, so we are more than a little cynical.”

Councillor Dombey added: “Under the proposals St Helier would become the site for elective surgery for patients from Ham to New Addington.

“Is there any guarantee they would come? What about the transport issues? Where would they park when they got here?”

During the meeting it was revealed that BSBV’s recommendation supposes that between 2013 when the decision is due to be made and 2017 when it should be implemented, up to 50% of A&E patients would be persuaded to seek treatment in the community instead of going to hospital.

Click here to sign our petition organised by local LibDems, on the website of Paul Burstow. [Click on the word “petition”]

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