A&E journey times more than double if St Helier closes

London Ambulance Service reveals alarming journey time figures to Sutton councillors

Alarming figures from London Ambulance Service stunned councillors at Sutton Council’s special Scrutiny Committee meeting focusing on St Helier Hospital on Monday (June 11).

Bill Arkell, LAS 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 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.

Cllr 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.

Cllr Burstow added: “In light of these figures, it is absolutely astonishing that Better Services Better Value didn’t bother to ask LAS for their 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 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.”

Cllr 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.

But Mr Bailey admitted that the watchdog National Clinical Advisory Team had real doubts that the patient cuts could be achieved and that GP and other community services could cope with the extra demands they would face if A&E and maternity services were cut.

Mr Bailey revealed that NCAT would return later this week to reassess the proposal.

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