St Helier Hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) unit has had to take in emergency patients from other hospitals on 10 separate occasions this year, adding to fears that its closure will reduce emergency care to “First World War field hospitals”.
The figures show Croydon University Hospital’s A&E unit diverted its services to St Helier on six occasions, including once on Monday, September 3, and three times in August.
Ambulances that would have taken patients from St George’s Hospital, Tooting, were diverted to St Helier three times, while Kingston Hospital patients were diverted to St Helier once.
On one occasion this year, March 15, St Helier’s A&E services were diverted to another hospital.
Geoff Martin, from anti-cuts campaigners London Health Emergency, said the figures proved the NHS’s plans to close St Helier’s A&E would put an unmanageable amount of pressure on the other three hospitals in the region.
He said: “It proves the point we have been making throughout – this closure would lead to a complete breakdown in emergency treatment.
“More people are using A&E and you just can’t maintain a commitment to see everyone within four hours if the cuts go through. It will reduce Croydon and others to First World War field hospitals."
But a spokesman for the NHS’s Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review said the other hospitals' A&E units would be bigger if St Helier's proposed cuts went through.
He said: “If BSBV proposals went ahead, Croydon, Kingston and St George’s A&Es would be expanded so they would be bigger units.
“Projections show the expanded units would be comfortably able to cope with the numbers of patients using them.
"More senior doctors would also be available at the expanded A&Es, making the services safer for patients.”
An A&E divert is a temporary diversion of some patients from one hospital to other A&E Departments to provide temporary respite, and is agreed between a hospital and the London Ambulance service.
A spokeswoman for Croydon Health Services said their most recent diverts to St Helier, on September 3 and August 28, were in place for 90 minutes and only affect ‘non blue-light’ ambulances.
She said: “There are a number of reasons why a divert needs to be made; in particular it is used to manage the number of patients within the unit therefore ensuring the safety of all our patients.
“This may happen when, for example, we have a high number of ambulances arriving at a similar time.
“The Trust also often receives ambulances and patients that have been diverted from other hospitals that are on ‘divert’."
But Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, a leading voice against plans to axe St Helier's maternity and A&E units, said: "What will be the consequences for local people when St Helier is no longer a safety valve for other hospitals?
"The consultants I've spoken to tell me they do not support these proposals despite BSBV telling us these cuts are proposed by clinicians."