St Georges decide not to proceed with merger process.

“As Vice Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Committee and one of two Sutton Council representatives on the SW London Health Scrutiny Committee, I will be following very closely the implications for the residents of Sutton South  of the decision by St George’s Healthcare Trust not to proceed with the merger with  St Helier Hospital. Please see the press release below.”

Cllr Heather Honour

St George’s decide not to proceed with merger process

St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust have informed us and our strategic authority, NHS London, that they cannot proceed with their bid to merge with St Helier and Sutton hospitals.

Throughout the process St George’s have been very positive about the strategic opportunity to merge and the benefits this could bring to patients.

However, due to the financial challenges facing hospitals in south west London and the inability to pre-empt the outcome of the Better Services Better Value review, which is looking at how NHS services are provided across south west London, they do not feel able to proceed at this time.

This is because the review, which will be open to public consultation, could have a significant impact on the financial income of all hospitals involved.

St George’s have however expressed a full commitment to working closely with St Helier and Sutton hospitals in the future.

Jan Sawkins is the Independent Chair of the special Board set up to help St Helier, Sutton and Epsom hospitals to achieve foundation trust status.  She said: “Whilst we have always been aware that a bidder could withdraw during the process, at this stage in the transaction it is obviously very disappointing news.

“The Transaction Board has a meeting scheduled next week (7 February 2012) and we will use this to consider the options and agree a way forward.  This may include re-opening tenders for St Helier and Sutton hospitals.”

Matthew Hopkins, Trust Chief Executive said: “This is disappointing news, but St George’s have been clear to us that their decision is not based on our staff, nor the quality of the services we provide at St Helier and Sutton hospitals.

“As you would expect, the Trust Board and those working on the transaction have been looking at other options in case this happened and we look forward to discussing these with the Transaction Board next week.

“Whilst we are making decisions about the long-term future of our hospitals, our priority will – as ever – continue to be ensuring our patients and local people receive the very best services.”

Asked what this means for Epsom Hospital, Jan added: “It is the current belief that, subject to Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust being confirmed as the Preferred Partner for Epsom Hospital, the de-merger could continue whilst we make alternative arrangements for St Helier and Sutton.

“Whilst this would, of course, need further investigation and approval by the Transaction Board, the Trust Board and others, it is felt that this would be in the best interest of Epsom Hospital, its patients, staff and local people.

“However, I would emphasise that the priority remains to secure the future of Epsom, St Helier and Sutton hospitals.”

For more information about the work of the Trust visit our website: www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk.  You can also follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/epsom_sthelier) or find us on Facebook (facebook.com/epsomsthelier).

This is what St Georges said in their press release:

St George’s media statement

 St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust submitted a bid for a potential merger with St Helier Hospital in November 2011.

The board is clear that a merger between St George’s Healthcare and St Helier would be an excellent strategic opportunity, with the potential to bring significant improvements to the care of patients across southwest London and beyond.

After careful consideration the board has reached the conclusion that the current terms of the merger prevent us from proceeding further at this time.

The level of financial challenge facing hospitals in south west London,  combined with the inability to pre-empt the outcome of a public consultation around the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review, means this is not the right time for us to progress with the transaction.

We want to continue to build on the existing links that are in place for clinical services.  We have identified a number of the potential benefits to patients that would occur from an acquisition which could also be delivered if the organisations remained separate legal entities which we shall continue to pursue.

We are particularly keen to develop the clinical and academic networks that span St George’s Healthcare and St Helier, and explore opportunities to establish new networks across services, to the benefit of patients.

A key priority for the trust is to achieve Foundation Trust (FT) status by 2014, and we will focus our efforts on achieving this. The board feels strongly that achieving FT status will strengthen the opportunities for St. George’s Healthcare and St Helier to work together in the future.

This is what Ashford and St Peters have had to say:

Statement re Epsom Hospital

Chief Executive at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Andrew Liles, said:

“The decision made by St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust not to pursue their bid for St Helier and Sutton hospitals has not changed our position regarding Epsom and we will continue to progress our plans to acquire Epsom hospital (through merger) in line with the process set out by the Transaction Board.  Of course this is still subject to approval by the Transaction Board, Epsom and St Helier, the local health authorities and others and by our own Board, who will need to be assured that any final decision is in the best interests of both the Epsom and Ashford and St Peter’s catchment populations.

As a Foundation Trust already we feel we are in a strong position strategically to pursue these plans and we know they have already passed through the first stage of the process successfully, meeting the criteria set by local people, stakeholders and staff.  These include new and innovative partnerships – with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Central Surrey Health and Surrey and Sussex Partnership NHS Trust – to create an integrated healthcare campus at Epsom Hospital, bringing additional services and added benefits to local patients and staff.  Our plans are also made more straightforward by the fact that Epsom hospital is not part of the Better Services Better Value review in South West London.

We have also had positive initial discussions regarding financial and commissioning support for our plans, although of course final decisions regarding the preferred provider and agreement of financial support are still to be made.”

For more information please call the Press Office on:  01932 722163

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.”