GPs are opposing a proposed downgrade of accident and emergency and maternity services at St Helier Hospital in south London, it has emerged.

The opposition emerged in a survey of GPs in the borough of Sutton about an NHS South West London reconfiguration proposal which would see the services withdrawn from one of the area’s four hospitals: Croydon, Kingston, St George’s and St Helier. A primary care trust cluster-appointed panel in May recommended the latter hospital saw services downgraded.

Although 63 per cent of Sutton GPs thought concentrating the PCT cluster’s resources in three A&E and maternity units was a good idea, 67 per cent opposed St Helier being the one that was downgraded.

The leaked survey results, carried out by the cluster, are a blow to the Better Services, Better Value review of healthcare provision across the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton and Merton, Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth. The support of GP commissioners is one of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s “four tests” of whether he will authorise a service reconfiguration.

A public consultation on the plans is due later this year.

Local MP and health minister Paul Burstow has opposed the proposal, calling it “a flawed conclusion from a flawed process”.

David Finch, local GP and medical director of the review, noted that 90 per cent of respondents thought the review was needed and there was strong support for the concept of locating A&E and maternity services in three centres of excellence.

“This seems to suggest that Sutton GPs support [the review] but would rather services at their local hospital were protected, which is understandable,” he said. “No decision has yet been made on which options we will consult the public on, but we are pleased that the initial response to the proposed models of care is so positive.”

The news comes after the GP leading NHS North West London’s reconfiguration proposals, which would see three A&Es downgraded, last month told a local paper that political interference would cost lives.

Mark Spencer said: “If [the reconfiguration is] bogged down in a judicial review, politicians are killing 200 people a year.”

 

 

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