St George's Hospital pulls out merger with Sutton and St Helier hospitals
6:16pm Monday 30th January 2012 in News
St George's Hospital has pulled out of its plan to merge with St Helier Hospital.
St George’s Hospital in Tooting bid to merge with St Helier Hospital and Sutton Hospital, after the organisation that runs the Sutton unit said it did not have the financial clout to achieve foundation status – which gives trusts greater independence – in its current form.
Now the announcement by St George's - the only health trust which bid to run the two hospitals - that it is to pull out of the merger has raised major question marks about St Helier and Sutton hospitals' futures.
A statement released by Epsom and St Helier's hospital trust today said: "St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust have informed us and our strategic authority, NHS London, that they cannot proceed with their bid to merge with St Helier and Sutton hospitals.
"Throughout the process St George’s have been very positive about the strategic opportunity to merge and the benefits this could bring to patients.
"However, due to the financial challenges facing hospitals in south west London and the inability to pre-empt the outcome of the Better Services Better Value review, which is looking at how NHS services are provided across south west London, they do not feel able to proceed at this time.
"This is because the review, which will be open to public consultation, could have a significant impact on the financial income of all hospitals involved."
"St George’s have however expressed a full commitment to working closely with St Helier and Sutton hospitals in the future."
Jan Sawkins, independent chair of the special board set up to help St Helier, Sutton and Epsom hospitals to achieve foundation trust status, said: “Whilst we have always been aware that a bidder could withdraw during the process, at this stage in the transaction it is obviously very disappointing news.
“The Transaction Board has a meeting scheduled next week (February 7, 2012) and we will use this to consider the options and agree a way forward. "This may include re-opening tenders for St Helier and Sutton hospitals.” Matthew Hopkins, Trust Chief Executive said: “This is disappointing news, but St George’s have been clear to us that their decision is not based on our staff, nor the quality of the services we provide at St Helier and Sutton hospitals.
“As you would expect, the Trust Board and those working on the transaction have been looking at other options in case this happened and we look forward to discussing these with the Transaction Board next week.
“Whilst we are making decisions about the long-term future of our hospitals, our priority will – as ever – continue to be ensuring our patients and local people receive the very best services.”
Asked what this means for Epsom Hospital, Mrs Sawkins added: “It is the current belief that, subject to Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust being confirmed as the Preferred Partner for Epsom Hospital, the de-merger could continue whilst we make alternative arrangements for St Helier and Sutton.
“Whilst this would, of course, need further investigation and approval by the Transaction Board, the Trust Board and others, it is felt that this would be in the best interest of Epsom Hospital, its patients, staff and local people.
“However, I would emphasise that the priority remains to secure the future of Epsom, St Helier and Sutton hospitals.”
A transition board at St Helier was analysing the St George’s bid and was set to make its recommendation in the middle of next month.
The Government wants all hospital trusts to achieve foundation status by 2014.
But last month MPs on the cross-party public accounts committee savaged nationwide progress on the issue - with chairman Margaret Hodge describing London trusts as being in a “shocking state”.