Chaiman's Blog - July 2016


At our Open Meeting in June we had a presentation from Daniel Elkeles, who is the Chief Executive of the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, and Tim Hamilton, its Communications Director. They are in the process of meeting a number of residents’ associations in order to discuss the hospitals’ future. 

Residents will remember the furore a couple of years back when suggestions were made that St Helier should close, with the loss, inter alia, of its accident and emergency department, and its maternity services. The decision was eventually taken to keep both hospitals open, and to maintain all existing services until 2020, while a review was undertaken to discuss all the options. 

Mr. Elkeles has been in post for only 18 months, and it is his remit to oversee that review. We were impressed by the daunting scale of the problems that the Trust faces, and the obvious care with which he and his team are trying to resolve them. For example, they have managed to reduce the use of expensive agency nursing staff by 70% in the last twelve months by recruiting more extra full time nurses, and also reduced the vacancy rate. But the Trust is in deficit every year by millions of pounds, and the deficit is increasing. 

A major part of the problem with St Helier is simply its age, dating as it does from the 1930’s, and an astonishing 43% of its occupied floor area has been defined as “functionally unsuitable” for modern health care delivery, and not even fit for purpose. The layout of the rooms is too small to prevent and control infection effectively, and results in over a million of pounds extra a year being spent on cleaning. The wards are situated well apart so that time and money is wasted on taking patients between them. Only 21% of the bedrooms are single occupancy, as opposed to having 4 or 6 beds, and the structure of the buildings means that more single rooms cannot be easily added. 

It is clear that if St Helier is to remain open, a large part of the building has to be demolished, and rebuilt, although there is enough green space to allow this to happen. That would depend on funding being provided by the Treasury, and planning permission being granted by Sutton Council. 

The Trust is now developing what is called a Strategic Outline Case which they aim tocomplete by the end of this October. That will then go out for formal public consultation to the Treasury, the two local authorities, and to the public at large. So the process of deciding what to do is still at an early stage, and there will be plenty of opportunity to comment later. 

One measure of the problem they face is that last week, each hospital had 500 people a day coming into their A and E departments. The officers

calculate that only 100 of these needed urgent and specialised hospital treatment, and the others could have been treated by other community facilities, including GP’s. They know that the population is getting older and they need more hospital based capacity. They also accept that they need to provide seven day working, with consultants available at all times. 

The officers of the Trust have promised to come back and discuss this further with us as the plans develop. 


The Council is set to reduce the rubbish collection from every week to every fortnight, and to introduce wheelie bins. A scrutiny panel voted on June 9 to support a recommendation for Veolia to take over waste collection and street cleaning services in Merton, as part of the South London Waste Partnership. 

This means that, if Veolia wins the contract, wheelie bins would be brought in across Merton from October 2018. We understand that each household would be provided with 3 smallish wheelie bins, as a cost to the ratepayers of £7 million. 

The recycling collections for paper and card and for plastic, glass and cans would be divided, and would be collected only on alternate weeks. We regard the decision to move away from weekly collections as utterly misguided, and this will simply contribute to the fundamentally dirty state of Merton’s streets. 

Public rubbish bins are overflowing in the streets and parks, since they are not regularly emptied, and now have dog waste added to them as well. The results are disgusting. 

Wheelie bins are not suitable for many smaller houses and flats which have nowhere to store them. They will left on the streets to provide an eyesore and overflow with rubbish, and will attract foxes andrats. Elderly and disabled people will not been able to manhandle them. There is no sustainable evidence of any savings in these proposals. We cannot believe that any sensible and responsible Council could vote to bring in such a scheme. 


Residents will have noticed that the grass verges, which used to be trimmed regularly, have been left uncut for weeks, and are growing wild. This is the result of another attempt by the Council to save money, which has backfired. 

The Council thought it could save money on grass cutting by putting it out to tender, but the result has been a gross failure in the provision of services which residents have a right to expect. 


Flash floods reduced the centre of Raynes Park to a standstill when two cars got marooned under the bridge. The surrounding area was awash and roads blocked all around. This is a reminder that this Association was founded in 1928 because of flooding in the area, which resulted, among other things, in the Raynes Park Golf Club having to re-locate to the Malden Golf Club. 

It remains vital that any planning application should be carefully considered to see whether there are suitable run-offs for water, and that we retain as much open space as possible to allow for adequate drainage. 


Don’t forget that much of Coombe Lane and Wimbledon Hill will be closed to traffic all day for the annual bike road on 31 July, and that pedestrian access will also be severely restricted. (See below for more information.)


We thought that we had lost Waterstones and W H Smith for good from Wimbledon when their leases ran out, and Metro Bank took over. However both firms are coming back to Wimbledon with opening dates promised for the autumn. We don’t yet know where they are going to be located. 


John Elvidge

Join us on:


Share this page: