An independent report commissioned by Merton Council has found that the proposed stripping of A&E and maternity services at St Helier Hospital could result in the need for Croydon University Hospital to serve 44,320 more patients before a new hospital is completed in 2030.
The downgrade plans, first proposed in 2019 with an unspecified timeline, would result in an increase of patients at nearby hospitals such as Croydon University Hospital and St George’s in Kingston, the report says.
The report, seen by ELL, was commissioned by Merton Council and written by consulting agency Newton Europe.
The preliminary analysis indicated that St Georges, Kingston, and Croydon University Hospital combined would likely need to find space for an additional 50,000 Merton residents.
It shows that Croydon University Hospital currently accommodates around 22,000 Merton residents as their first and second closest hospital. However, after the downgrade at St Helier, 42,000 more Merton residents will rely on the Croydon hospital.
The stripped services at St Helier would eventually be moved to a new specialist emergency care hospital on the site of Royal Marsden Hospital in Belmont, Sutton – to be completed by 2030.
There are no hospitals in the borough of Merton, so most residents use St Helier, in Sutton, as it is their closest one.
The report shows that Croydon University Hospital has accommodated the highest number of A&E patients among St Helier, Kingston and St George’s hospitals since 2017.
The bed occupancy rate at the Croydon hospital was also the highest, averaging 90 per cent in the past year.
St Helier Hospital will receive upgrades as well as the downgrade, with plans to build a new pathology centre and onsite nursery by 2025.
The Government confirmed that hundreds of millions of pounds of funding would be made available to NHS Epsom and St Helier Hospitals Trust to develop a new major hospital back in 2019.
At the time the trust said its hospital buildings were “not fit for modern healthcare”, as 90 per cent of buildings are “older than NHS itself”.
A spokesperson for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust told ELL: “Merton’s sickest and most seriously ill patients will be cared for by specialist doctors and nurses in a new state-of-the-art hospital, and will have faster access to the best care and treatment.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, backed by the government, to build a new multi-million-pound emergency hospital while also making significant improvements to Epsom and St Helier hospitals, where 85 per cent of patients will still receive care.”
The independent report has not been shared with the Trust.
A press release about the report was published on October 23 on the Merton Council website, but was later taken down on the basis that the council had not reviewed the report.
ELL spoke to a Merton councillor, who later declined to comment publicly until the report had been viewed in detail by the council.