A leading clinician has labelled plans to close St Helier’s maternity unit a “foolish idea”.
Last month the Better Services Better Value review (BSBV) put forward its preferred model for the future of health services in south-west London recommending that St Helier lose its accident and emergency (A&E) and its maternity departments.
Carolyn Croucher, who has been a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at St Helier Hospital since 2001, said: “We support BSBV in the process of anything that produces better quality care for patients.
“We are not against that at all, but I can tell you that of the women’s heath clinicians we think that closing maternity services at St Helier is a foolish idea.”
The maternity unit, which comprises state of the art delivery rooms with birthing pools and a neonatal unit, opened just three years ago at a cost of £2.8m.
Should the recommendation go forward, this maternity unit would close with maternity services being expanded at the remaining three hospitals in south-west London at a cost of more than £100m upfront, with projected year on year savings of £15.9m.
Mrs Croucher said: “This is where the BSBV argument falls down. It’s not a bad argument to improve services; it’s about how you go about it.
“I also recognise that we live in a world with financial challenges, but the BSBV scheme does not stack up financially.”
The money to expand maternity wards at St George’s, Kingston and Croydon would have to be applied for and approved by the Department for Health that would result in larger maternity wards catering for 7,000 births a year at each hospital; St Helier delivered 3,305 babies last year.
Mrs Croucher said: “It’s about the team working together and I think that happens particularly well here.
“Once you reach a certain size you lose the personal touch.
“Patients often come back because they know it’s a small team who will be working with them and have their best interests.
“They are creating a personal relationship with you – we feel sorrow for them and joy.
“When you are just going on numbers, for me you would lose job satisfaction.”
Under the current recommendation, St Helier Hospital will lose its A&E and maternity departments, but retain a stand-alone urgent care centre which could treat up to half of current A&E patients.
St Helier will have a planned care centre for non-emergency surgery for patients across south-west London.
Plans to shut the maternity and A&E services were recommended last week. They will now go to the joint boards for approval on September 27, before a three-month public consultation which is now due to begin in November.