Chairman's Blog - June 2012


It's very hard to keep up with the proposed changes to hospital services at the Nelson and St Helier Hospitals. I will try to summarise what I understand the position to be.

There is a notice up in the Nelson Hospital announcing that from 1st June some outpatient services there will be moving to the St. Helier Hospital so that the Nelson can become a local care centre. These services are x rays, ultrasound, and ECG. No decision has yet been made apparently about phlebotomy (blood tests). I hope these at least can be retained. When I went there recently for my annual blood test, there were well over 50 people waiting at 9 am.

As one who has used all of these services in the past, and welcomed the convenience of doing so, I regret that we will now have to make the journey to St Helier. It will be particularly difficult for those without a car, and parking is not easy there. The last thing one wants when feeling a bit under the weather is to go too far away from home.

We wait to see whether the proposed care centre will provide an improvement on existing services.

The care centre is intended to provide 50 units of supported housing and allow GP's and consultants to offer services such as physiotherapy and endoscopy, as well as minor procedures.

St. Helier is now part of the Epsom and St. Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust. Their newsletter for May announces a fund of £8.9 million for almost 100 refurbishment projects, including spending £700,000 on state of the art imaging equipment in the x-ray rooms. Hence, I suppose, the closure of the one at the Nelson. There will be a new lithotripter for pulverizing kidney stones at a cost of £400,000. For in-patients the wards will be upgraded to phase out mixed wards, and to offer new bathroom and toilets. The catering will also be improved. More worryingly, given the waste of money spent by the NHS on IT, £800,000 is to be spent on improving the computer systems.

St. George's Healthcare NHS Trust withdrew their bid to merge with St Helier (and Sutton). The independent health think tank, The King's Fund, is said to be helping to develop long-term options for St. Helier.

St. Helier provides the nearest A and E services for many residents. Over 80,000 people were treated at St. Helier in 2010-11, and the numbers continue to increase. The maternity unit there also saw an increase in live births, with over 3,300 babies born in 2011-12.

Yet despite this increasing demand, an NHS panel, including clinicians, has recommended that St. Helier should lose its A and E and maternity units to the hospitals in Croydon and Kingston, as part of an overall NHS London wide review. A care centre is proposed in its place. The children's wards at St. Helier are also earmarked for closure.

Both Merton MPs have expressed their opposition. The recommendations will be put before other boards, and then go out for public consultation for 3 months. A final decision will be taken by the NHS later this year.

It goes without saying that all of our residents will want to keep these vital services as local as possible. Of course, hospitals need the best specialists and consultants, and they cannot be spread too widely. But given the growing population of London and our area in particular, it cannot be right that local people should be left with the choice of going to Kingston, Croydon, or St George's, all of which are already under heavy pressure.


Residents will remember the successful campaign to prevent the building of an anaerobic digester for waste food in the Rainbow Estate off Grand Drive and next to the station. Now plans are afoot to build up to 250 residential units here, on a site which has its only access onto Grand Drive. It is currently designated for light industrial use and provides local employment and this might be lost. We believe that the planning department should draw up a development brief for this valuable site in the middle of the town centre, but only after close consultation with local residents and their associations. We should not, as on many previous occasions, be presented with a fait accompli decided by meetings between the developers, the planning officers, and some Councillors to which we have not been party.


We have heard a rumour that the fishing club, proposed as a compromise measure between those who want fishing allowed on the Lake, and those who do not, and which is intended to monitor and control the use, is actually going to happen. Watch this space!


As you read this, there will be street parties for the Diamond Jubilee in many roads, which will be closed to traffic. Let's hope for the same sort of weather as blessed the Royal Wedding last year, and the same mood of national celebration. One of my earliest memories was of going next door to my neighbours to watch the Coronation on their 9 inch TV. What a long time has passed, and so much has happened, and yet the Queen is still going strong!

John Elvidge

Join us on:


Share this page: