LOCAL MPs RAISE ALARM OVER ST HELIER’S FUTURE

The Borough’s MPs, Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, are calling for the local NHS to pause, listen and reflect over plans for a “headlong rush to merger with St George’s”.
 
The two MPs have told local and London NHS bosses that the plans for a merger with St Georges lack legitimacy because they have failed to secure support from hospital doctors, GPs and local Councils.  The MPs are stepping up the pressure by launching an on-line petition to London NHS boss, Ruth Carnell.
 
St George’s NHS Trust was the only Trust to bid for St Helier.  However, St George’s is struggling with a series of financial difficulties and recently has seen the departure of its Chief Executive.  Amidst growing concerns that St George’s will ‘asset strip’ St Helier, the Borough’s MPs want the merger process to be put on hold to give both St Helier and St George’s the time to sort themselves out and allow other NHS hospitals to come forward.
 
Paul Burstow MP said, “I have been hard-pressed to find anyone in favour of this merger plan.  Health professionals and local councillors feel bounced.  There is growing alarm at the haste with which this process is moving.
 
“The future of St Helier depends crucially on support from clinicians, without that essential goodwill, a merger will become a hostile take-over.  From my discussions with consultants, it is clear to me that the relationships between the two hospitals are toxic, hardly the basis for a genuine marriage in the public interest.
 
Tom Brake MP said, “The priority here is to get the best deal for St Helier, not the fastest one.  The Government has just completed a major national NHS listening exercise, local Health bosses must do the same; stop, pause, take on board people’s concerns and come back with a better offer.”

OAKLEIGH SADLY NO ALTERNATIVE TO CLOSURE

In the  debate on the proposed closure of Oakleigh at Monday night’s Council Meeting, it was clear that this was not a straight  forward matter.  There were many different angles to consider and Heather addressed them in her contribution to the debate.

“None of us can be comfortable about closing a care home for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

And one that has an excellent reputation.

I visited Oakleigh as part of the investigation by the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. The residents were happy and very well looked after.  Care staff  were totally committed to their work. I would be comfortable to see a relative of mine live there.

I took  therefore an challenging approach to  the scrutiny exercise we undertook  about Oakleigh.

From the outset, I was shocked at the very high weekly cost to look after each  resident.  (one thousand and twenty four pounds) £1,024.

This confirmed research I’ve read from  from the  Dept of Health.  Care homes run by councils are much more costly than those run by independent organisations.  This is a nationwide phenomenon.

In the wider context, Sutton’s grant was dramatically cut by central government.  We have to save  over £30 million over the next 3 years.  Savings of £10.5 million have to be found from the adult social care budget.

So the financial situation makes keeping an excellent, but costly,  Oakleigh less possible.

Current good practice says that people should be helped to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.  Many would prefer to do so provided the right level and quality of support is there.

As part of the personalisation agenda, introduced by the last government, everyone eligible for social care has their own budget. This is based on what their needs are assessed to be.  They should then be able to make their own choices about how to spend their money.  All this has to happen within 18 months.

This means that  it could be difficult for people to afford to stay at Oakleigh.

The key question is therefore  whether there are  other good quality care homes available in the borough?

As part of our investigation, we visited a wide range of care homes and found a wide range of quality.

The star rating system by the Care Quality Commission was not as helpful as we expected. ( now to be discontinued)  Oakleigh was given a 3 star rating.  Most care homes in the borough were given a 2 star rating.  We found that some of these were excellent, some not very good.

We therefore recommended, that the Commissioning Unit  and social workers, should work together to improve standards in those homes that had 2 stars.

We needed a Sutton based  quality assurance, reflecting our values and standards.  We could not rely on the Care Quality Commission.  That organisation is in any case changing.

We also recommended that we should challenge the regulations that prevented us from transferring the business of Oakleigh to another, independent provider.

Once again Sutton demonstrated its commitment to consultation.  It did challenge the Care Quality Commission successfully, and then went out for another 12 weeks consultation.  Few councils would take that trouble.

Unfortunately, no independent organisation was ready to bid for Oakleigh, probably because of the financial obligations   when staff are transferred from one organisation to another.

So I have reluctantly concluded that there is no alternative to closing Oakleigh.  I do realise what a blow this will be to those still living there, and to the hard working staff.  Great efforts will be made to help people find new homes.  Like my colleague I would like to say a big thank you to Link and to the dedicated staff at Oakleigh.”