The NHS has announced a new five-year strategy for healthcare in southwest London following the scrapping of the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review.
A draft of the new programme, called South West London Collaborative Commissioning (SWLCC), was published this morning by Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
The strategy, which aims to limit the spiralling costs of healthcare while improving the quality of care, will be discussed for approval at public meetings held by each of the CCG's governing bodies over the next few weeks.
If approved, the details of its implementation will be debated by the CCGs with healthcare trusts and health and wellbeing boards, including the role of each local trust in delivering the strategy.
SWLCC replaces BSBV, a review aiming to reconfigure services across St Helier, Kingston, Croydon and St George's hospitals, which was scrapped in February.
Epsom Hospital, which had been part of the review since late 2012, left BSBV in November last year after the area's GPs, sitting on Surrey Downs CCG, voted to reject its proposals.
Under BSBV's plans, both Epsom and St Helier hospitals would have lost their A&E, and maternity departments as well as their children's departments, which Croydon hospital would also have lost.
A SWLCC spokesman said the new strategy has been designed to meet a number of clinical and financial challenges facing the NHS nationally - including a rising demand for healthcare; a shortage of specialist staff; and a predicted shortfall of £210m in the six CCGs' budgets over the next five years.
In addition to this shortfall, a spokesman said that Epsom and St Helier, Croydon, Kingston and St George's NHS trusts have to identify an additional £360m worth of savings over the same period.
The spokesman said that SWLCC aims to meet 100 per cent of the London Quality Standards by 2018-19 - standards setting out what good care should look like, developed by clinicians and patients.
He said the strategy aims to ensure that seven-day services are delivered by 2015-16, that networks of GPs are developed, that standards of community-based services are raised, and that most planned operations in South West London requiring an overnight stay will take place in a planned care centre within five years.
In contrast to BSBV, SWLCC also aims to reshape mental health services because "mental health services often fail to provide support at an early enough stage, leading to service users becoming more seriously unwell and having to be admitted to a mental health hospital".
Dr Howard Freeman, chairman of Merton CCG and the SWLCC strategic commissioning board, said: "The CCGs have been working together and talking to local clinicians during our first year, to work out the best ways of tackling the clinical and financial problems that we have inherited.
"Everyone working in the NHS knows that things need to change and the challenge will only get tougher in the years ahead.
"The reality is that we face a stark choice between change planned and agreed by local clinicians or some services becoming clinically and financially unsustainable - which will ultimately lead to changes over which we have no control.
"We can only address this by working together - the good news is that if we address it in the right way, we can significantly improve services and outcomes for our patients.
"This is a high level strategy, which sets out the standards that we as commissioners expect for our patients.
"Central to the strategy is the need to change the way we deliver health services to meet the changing needs of our population.
"This means we need to spend more money on services based in the community, keeping people out of hospital unless they really need to be there.
"The NHS has been talking to local people about the challenges we face for the last three years and recently held further meetings as part of the national Call to Action initiative.
"All of the concerns and points that people have raised with us have been taken into consideration and that will continue during the implementation phase.
"The one thing we really cannot do is to opt out of the challenges we face.
"Things do need to change if we are to provide safe, high quality and sustainable services across south west London."
To read the strategy in full, click here.
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