Merton Council is writing to the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission asking him to investigate the proposed decision to 'downgrade' St Helier Hospital.

In the letter, the Council address their concerns on how the relocation of acute services at St Helier will impact people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The Council also highlight their concerns on how the 'downgrade' would be to "disadvantage the most deprived residents" in the hospital catchment area.

The letter comes after the NHS Surrey Heartlands and NHS South West London clinical commissioning groups voted to approve the new emergency care facility in Belmont on July 3.

The proposal will see 'six major' services, including A&E, critical care and emergency surgery be combined and moved to a new site as part of a £500 million state investment.

The Council have expressed their concerns over ethnic minority groups being more likely to become "seriously ill after contracting coronavirus."

On June 16, Public Health England published a review into the impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

It stated: "The highest age standardised diagnosis rates of Covid-19 per 100,000 population were in people of Black ethnic groups (486 in females and 649 in males).

"The lowest were in people of White ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males)."

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Alambritis, who is a former EHRC commissioner, said:

"We are asking the Commission to investigate whether the full adverse impact on BAME communities of closing critical health services at St Helier Hospital has been properly taken into account.

Wimbledon Times:

“The importance of this has been underlined by coronavirus – people from BAME communities are more likely to become seriously ill after contracting the virus and, as we will be living with the pandemic for some time to come, this must be taken into account when planning future health services.

He added: "Downgrading St Helier Hospital is a terrible decision, which will have a particularly detrimental impact on our most deprived residents."

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Women and Equalities, Councillor Laxmi Attawar, said: “It is clear that BAME communities will be disproportionally adversely affected by the proposed decision to downgrade St Helier Hospital.

"The plans would result in an unacceptable risk of an inferior health service for residents who rely on acute care the most.

“We are questioning whether the needs of BAME communities have been thoroughly evaluated when planning critical health care services and if their views have been given sufficient consideration.”