Surrey Downs GPs' group says doctors should vote against NHS BSBV proposals in secret ballot
Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (SDCCG) is urging GPs to vote against the controversial proposals which would see Epsom Hospital’s acute services axed in a secret ballot it has organised.
The CCG announced yesterday that the vote will be held as the last part of the assurance process required by NHS England before CCGs in south west London and Surrey Downs can decide if the proposals in the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review can go out to public consultation.
According to BSBV, the clinical and financial case has already been accepted, so only a no vote by Surrey Downs GPs is likely to force changes to the plans before public consultation next year.
MP Chris Grayling appealed today for everyone living in the area to "speak or write to their GPs backing Epsom Hospital and opposing BSBV" without delay as the vote is taking place over the next few days.
He said: "This is absolutely the right thing to do. I know that the local GP community has serious misgivings about the BSBV proposals."
Helena Reeves, strategic communications advisor at SDCCG, said every single Surrey Downs’ GPs will be asked to vote on the BSBV proposals as a whole, not just on the ones relating to Epsom Hospital, in an online vote - the date of which is still to be confirmed.
She said the CCG will have the results by next Friday afternoon, November 8, after which it will be able to comment on what impact they will have on the CCG’s final decision.
Ms Reeves said: "The vote is totally private - there will be no spectacle to be had. The GPs can really think about what they want to do. We have engaged an independent company to ensure it is all done objectively, robustly and above board."
She said every GP has been sent an information pack by SDCCG, including a recommendation that they vote against the proposals.
Ms Reeves added: "The CCG very clearly has put a recommendation forward that they believe is the right one.
"This is a membership organisation and the governing body has committed to whatever way the vote comes out."
Confusingly, a spokesman for BSBV originally claimed BSBV medical directors "will attend the meeting at which the ballot is taken and will put the case for change to GPs" - a claim completely refuted by Ms Reeves.
She said: "There is absolutely not a meeting at which the ballot will be taken.
"The GPs must be allowed some time and space to do this. It’s very important that every single GP in Surrey Downs has that opportunity."
The BSBV spokesman subsequently admitted that he had got it wrong.
Miles Freeman, chief officer of SDCCG, said it is only "right and proper" to hold the secret ballot.
He said: "As a governing body we have carefully reviewed and deliberated the BSBV proposals and we have also considered other alternatives, working with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust.
"The governing body fully acknowledges that BSBV proposes the highest standards of care for London services. However, that shared ambition must be balanced with the needs of Surrey and the current BSBV proposals may not offer the only or best solution for local patients."
Dr David Finch, joint medical director for BSBV, said: "We understand there is to be a ballot of Surrey Downs GPs and we will await the outcome of that ballot.
"But local clinicians know that the status quo is even less of an option now than when the BSBV programme was launched.
"NHS England, the NHS Confederation, Royal Colleges and the British Medical Association are all calling for service change to enable seven-day working.
"All the evidence suggests - and most clinicians know - that the NHS is not currently set up in a way that is fit for purpose.
"The BSBV programme is led by the CCGs with the support of local clinicians and we will continue to work with our clinical colleagues to find a way of making health services safer, better and financially sustainable."
The BSBV proposals involve axeing Epsom Hospital's A&E, maternity and children's departments.
At a public meeting held in May, at Epsom Downs Racecourse, SDCCG's governing body had planned to vote on whether it backed the BSBV proposals.
But at the last moment it was forced into a humiliating u-turn and had to announce at the meeting that it would instead be sending three delegates to a meeting of all the CCGs organised by BSBV where the vote would be taken.
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