As local Councillors, we responded to the consultation exercise on the closure of ticket offices in local train stations. The closure of the ticket office at Sutton station, which is in our Ward, was threatened. We responded to the consultation opposing this move.

We drew attention to instances where family members were able to get a cheaper deal on tickets than they could have got buying tickets over the internet by getting the advice of the staff at the ticket office. Having staffed ticket offices is essential to giving people advice on travel. People need advice on travel when they arrive at the station. Having these staff wandering around the station means you will not find them when you arrive at the station. There are particular difficulties for those who are partially sighted or disabled.

The consultation was, after an outcry over the limited nature of the consultation proposals, extended to 1 September. The decision has now been taken not to proceed with the closure plan but we will monitor the situation as effective closure of the ticket office by stealth, in particular the progreesive reduction of the hours of opening, is entirely possible.


St Helier

The following statement was issued at the start of January by Six South West London Clinical Commissioning Groups – Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth..  They are the NHS decision makers for South West London:

“The six south west London CCGs are actively discussing the next steps for local health services following the withdrawal of Surrey Downs CCG from the BSBV programme. As we have made clear in the past, the BSBV business case is now invalid and the options put forward through the programme are no longer on the table for consultation. It follows that all six CCGs are in the process of dissolving the committees to which they had delegated decision-making on BSBV.

“However, the challenges outlined in the BSBV case for change remain. If we do not address these challenges, we know that local services will decline in quality and that we will not be able to meet the required quality and safety standards. We are discussing with each other and with our boards how we address these challenges and we hope to make a further announcement in February.”

The key phrase is “The challenges outlined in the BSBV case for change remain”.  They are right in saying this.  Too many people do go to A&E, who should instead be going to a pharmacist or their local GP.  The reason they do is often because they can not get an appointment with their GP and they do not realise that visiting a pharmacist is even an option!

We are concerned that even though the BSBV business case is now invalid, the original solution proposed by the six CCGs of closing St Helier A&E and closing St Helier’s Maternity Ward still remain as favoured options, by the CCGs.  We have to wait to see what they say.

An indication was given on 18 February when GPs and healthcare professionals from across South West London announced that the BSBV review that recommended the closure of key healthcare services at St Helier hospital has been scrapped.  
A new strategy on how to deliver health services in our area will now be developed by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) so that the best possible care can be delivered in the future.

We welcome that, in contrast with the failed BSBV review, healthcare services will be viewed in a holistic way and that the CCGs will be working closely with all health providers and local authorities to deliver high quality care services.  

While t is good news that the BSBV review has been scrapped we still need to continue demonstrating our support for St Helier and make sure that essential health services remain accessible.

We want to see Sutton CCG working closely with St Helier Hospital, Sutton Council (Adult Social Services and Childrens Social Services) and the Royal Marsden (Community Health Visitors) to resolve the issues raised by the original BSBV plan, and not promoting the closure of the A and E Department at St Helier. 


paul at St Helier

A staggering increase in the workload of the St. Helier hospital Accident and Emergency Department, during the hot weather, has again challenged the case for closure of this important facility.

The hot weather has led to the busiest July in six years at St Helier and Epsom’s Accident and Emergency departments.

The threatened A&E departments saw an increase of 19 per cent – which is around 1,420 extra patients between July 1 and 22.

Overall 8,917 patients were seen during that period compared to 7,496 in 2008.

An average of 405 patients came in to A&E each day and on July 15 a staggering 468 patients attended A&E.

Our photo above shows Heather and Richard at St. Helier hospital protesting against the closure of the A & E and maternity departments.



paul at St Helier
On 9 May local GPs and other clinicians met to discuss the future of St Helier Hospital and the proposals put forward by the Better Service Better Value (BSBV) review. Very disappointingly, the Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group has agreed to consult on the three proposals recommended by the BSBV review.
This is despite the clear opposition to these proposals that local campaigners and presented to the meeting.
The decision means that St Helier is at risk of becoming a “local hospital”, losing its A&E and maternity units and Epsom is also potentially losing its frontline services, becoming a centre for elective care.
The second option, but less preferred by BSBV, is Epsom becoming the local hospital with St Helier becoming the centre for elective care. The third option is St Helier continuing as an acute hospital with Epsom becoming the centre for elective care and Croydon University Hospital becoming the most downgraded.
But this is not a done deal.
These recommendations still need to be approved by the other Clinical Commissioning Groups in South West London before they will be subject to a public consultation.
We will continue to fight tooth and nail for the future of our local hospital, working with other local campaigners to plan how we can make sure the voice of the local community is heard.
We will be taking our campaign to the next level to ensure that NHS bosses can be in no doubt – we want to Save Our St Helier!


paul at St Helier

The BBC London news has reported tonight that, despite our efforts to date and the many flaws and criticisms of their proposals, the local NHS Better Services, Better Value (BSBV) team has decided to press ahead with recommending the closure of both St Helier and Epsom’s A&E and maternity units. 
This is an appalling decision that flies in the face of the facts. It is not the end of the matter. It is still not too late to stop these ill-conceived plans.
Next Wednesday (9th May) Sutton’s Clinicial Commissioning Group (CCG) will meet to consider whether it wants to consult on BSBVs proposals.  The meeting will start at 1pm at St Bedes Conference Centre, St Raphael’s Hospice, London Road, North Cheam.  This is not a public meeting, though it is a meeting held in public.  There will be a large number of residents attending the meeting to make a silent protest against BSBVs plans and send a powerful message to the GPs and other clinicians who sit on the CCG board. 
We are, with local MPs Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, urging as many other people as possible to write to their local GP to support St Helier. 
Despite St Helier being the best performing hospital in SW London, today’s quality has been discounted by BSBV in favour of a hope that the quality of the rest will improve in the future.  You can compare the performance of our local hospitals by following this link: www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/compare.
BSBV assumes that as many as six out of ten people who use A&E do not need to be there.  Even if that were true, and it is not, there are no credible costed plans to deliver the expansion in community health and GP services necessary to reverse the rising demand for A&E.
BSBV claim that their proposals are necessary to improve patient safety.  They want to have more consultants on hand, which is a good idea.  But rather than taking the steps necessary to recruit them, they want to embark on a £350 million building programme to expand the remaining hospitals.  They do not have any guarantees that this money will be available from the Treasury and no idea what they will do if it is not provided.
Rather than looking for the simplest, lowest cost way of delivering improved patient safety they are set on a disruptive, highly complex and risky enterprise.
Please write to your GP and urge them to lobby the CCG to drop the plans and opt for a less expensive and less risky alternative.  Ask them to join with you and other residents in supporting our local A&E and maternity units.


Local campaigners have won a victory in the ongoing battle to save St Helier Hospital.

Liberal Democrat campaigners are celebrating the announcement that the immediate threat to St Helier Hospital’s Accident and Emergency, maternity and children’s wards has passed – although the future remains very uncertain.

The Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review, which in May recommended the cuts to these hospital services, has now recommended delaying going out to consultation on the plans saying, ‘This is because NHS Surrey wish to more fully understand the impact of BSBV on their residents who use NHS services in south west London, and implications for the NHS in Surrey, before public consultation begins. 

‘This means that the BSBV programme and NHS Surrey now need more time to carry out further detailed analysis of the impact of the proposals.’

In May,  BSBV recommended that St George’s, Croydon and Kingston hospitals remain as they are while St Helier should lose these crucial services, and instead become a centre for planned surgery across south west London.

The Liberal Democrat campaign to save St Helier immediately swung into action and months of effort reached a climax on 8 September when a Fun Day outside the hospital attracted protesters from across the area, who presented petitions carrying thousands of names to health service representatives.

The proposals were due to go out to a three-month consultation period at the beginning of October and we were preparing to continue the fight.

Heather Honour is one of two Sutton Councillors sitting on the pan-South West London committee investigating the proposals.

She said: “From the start we have made it clear that this was a deeply flawed process. What a pity that so much taxpayers’ money has been wasted by the BSBV team before they came to their senses.”

Councillor Mary Burstow, Chair of Sutton’s Scrutiny Committee, said: “Of course this is a reason to celebrate, but now we must work to secure the future of St Helier Hospital for generations of Sutton residents to come.

“This is now a real opportunity for residents, politicians and medical staff to work out exactly how we want to see healthcare delivered in years to come.

“And it is crucial that that discussion covers the entire capital. London’s health services need to be looked at as a whole and decisions need to be reached that meet the needs of all Londoners.”

However, the uncertainty remains for hospital staff and patients, who are still unclear about what the future holds.


Where’s the money gone?

Heather is playing a major role on a newly-created committee probing the massive hole in NHS Croydon’s finances. She is determined to find out what mistakes were made, who was at fault and what impact it will have on future healthcare in south west London.

The South West London Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on NHS Croydon finances met for the first time on 6 September and set itself the task of answering three crucial questions.

First, how was it that on 8 June 2011 the year’s accounts were signed off with a £5.54million surplus, yet when the same books were re-examined a year later they revealed a £22.7million overspend?

Second, why were officers – charged with managing a huge and vital job – not properly monitored, and were they given the right tools to do the job?

And, third, why in July 2012 did the South West London Cluster Board decide to try to cover up the huge deficit as a ‘prior period adjustment’?

Heather, one of two Sutton councillors sitting on the committee, said: “It is vital that we reach the bottom of this and that we do that quickly.

“If this is the sort of financial mismanagement we see from NHS bosses how can we be sure that the NHS BSBV team, which is after all proposing a multi-million pound plan which would close vital parts of St Helier Hospital, be able to run such a huge scheme successfully? Their track record is simply dreadful.”

Some observers believe the problems started in April 2010 when NHS Croydon was given the added responsibility of hosting London Specialised Commissioning Group. It is thought that running the £800million project may have stretched the resources of officers beyond their ability to cope.

The committee, which is comprised of councillors from Sutton, Richmond, Croydon, Merton, Wandsworth and Kingston, meet again on 24 September. It will call a number of witnesses including Ann Radmore, Chief Executive of NHS South West London.

Ms Radmore was appointed Sector Chief Executive for South West London in 2009 and led the establishment of the SWL Cluster in early 2010.

Another witness will be Dr Peter Brambleby, who was Croydon’s Director of Public Health from March 2010 to February 2012. On 6 July he blew the whistle on NHS London’s decision on 28 June to try to hide the deficit as a ‘prior period adjustment’ which, despite Dr Brambleby’s revelation, the South West London Cluster tried to repeat on 26 July.

Heather added: “Key personnel involved in the Better Service Better Value team planning the future of healthcare in south west London are involved in this Croydon mess. What confidence can we have in their plans for St Helier?”


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”]


A panel established under the NHS’s Better Services Better Value review has recommended that St Helier should become the centre for planned surgery in South West London, but losing its Accident & Emergency (A & E) and maternity units.

The review was initiated by the local NHS not by the Department of Health. Decisions about healthcare are taken by the local NHS organisation not Ministers. In the event that the final decision taken was challenged it could be referred to the Secretary of State for Health for a final decision.

As local Councillors who have used the services of St. Helier hospital, we oppose this decision. Heather has already been particularly active in opposing it as a member of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for south west London. On 15 May we joined our MP Paul Burstow in a demonstration against the decision at St. Helier hospital (in the photo above you can see Heather, Paul and Richard in front of the hospital).

Paul Burstow, has raised serious concerns about the way in which the Better Services Better Value review, and the talks about a merger with St Georges, have been handled. Treated as completely separate discussions, in fact they directly impacted on each other.

At this point no final decisions have been taken. Whilst important, the panel’s recommendations are not binding and mark the beginning of a process which will include a public consultation, expected in early autumn.

Local LibDems have previously fought to save St Helier and in 2010 secured £219m to refurbish and rebuild the hospital.

Paul Burstow comments:

“This is a flawed conclusion from a flawed process. There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge before final decisions are made.

The panel have ignored the pressure on all the A&Es and maternity units in south west London.

A cloud has gathered over St Helier but I believe we can mount a successful challenge to the assumptions that have led the panel to this conclusion.

We have saved St Helier before, and we will fight to do so again.”

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



Heather asked the Lead Councillor  for Health and Social Care two questions about St Helier at last night’s council meeting:

Q Sutton having now secured the funding for a new hospital, does the lead councillor see any risks from the proposed move away from the organisational structure that St Helier had with Epsom Hospital.”

Answer by Colin Stears, Lead Councillor Health and Social Care

Certain services have been concentrated on the Epsom site whilst  the preferred merger candidate St Georges Trust obviously has services in Tooting that it has built up over the years.

I think it is important for our Health and Wellbeing scrutiny Committee to monitor closely any proposed service changes and work with clinical commissioning colleagues in the GP consortia to make sure that quality services are delivered as near as possible to the patient.

It would be unfortunate if one of the very few new hospitals to be built in England did not deliver the appropriate range of services to the local community.

The building of the new hospital is an ideal opportunity for service users , commissioners , council representatives and the provider to starting working together early in the process to make sure quality services for local people are delivered in a local setting.

Q What does the lead councillor think about the ridiculously short timescale, scarcely a month, set by  St Heliers Transaction Board, for potential partners to undertake all the work necessary to take part in the selection process, given this is an issue of such importance to the health and wellbeing  of Sutton’s residents?

A This does seem a very short timescale compared to other projects that I am aware of.  I hope that this will be answered in the communications that we are having with the Transaction Board, but this is not satisfactory.