Tuesday, 29 April 2014

KOSHH Party candidates urge everyone to rock the vote!

The Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party (KOSHH Party) candidates urge everyone who is eligible to enrol to vote so they can participate in the May 22 local elections.

“The deadline for registering to vote is May 6 and we encourage everyone who is serious about saving St Helier Hospital to register,” says David Murray, KOSHH Party candidate for Wallington South, in the Sutton local elections. “This is a great chance to tell all the main parties that the hospital is the biggest issue facing Merton and Sutton.”

If you haven't yet registered to vote, click on this link - it is quick and easy to be part of this country's tradition of democracy. The KOSHH Party urges all voters in Merton and Sutton to think very carefully about who to support at the ballot box.

David Ash, KOSHH Party candidate for Raynes Park in Merton, is disappointed by the Merton Liberal Democrat manifesto for the forthcoming election. “There is not a single mention of St Helier Hospital in the Liberal Democrat’s Merton manifesto,” he says. “We agree that policies about safe streets, strong communities, heritage preservation and open government are important but without a commitment to preserving vital health services, such as St Helier Hospital, this rhetoric is meaningless.”

He adds: “Nobody voted for the top-down NHS reorganisation that David Cameron promised would not happen, nor for the sneaky contracting out of hospital services that is already happening at St Helier Hospital and all over England. You cannot trust the government or NHS England or the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to ensure services at St Helier and across the whole of the NHS remain free at point of need.”

Sandra Ash, KOSHH Party candidate for Wimbledon Park in Merton, says she is still waiting for an explanation from Conservative councillor, Oonagh Moulton as to why she thinks St Helier Hospital’s services are safe: “Given that the CCGs have said they intend to use the same flawed financial and clinical reasoning they used to justify the proposed downgrading of St Helier Hospital under the failed BSBV plan, it seems inevitable they will again come to the same flawed conclusion.”

Frances Cornford, KOSHH Party candidate for Sutton West, says: “We want all political parties running for office in these local elections to make a public commitment to preserving St Helier Hospital's services. We want cross-party support for our hospital at a local government level - this is the only way for our councillors that are aligned with the major parties in Sutton and Merton to send a strong message to their colleagues in Westminster.”

Monday, 28 April 2014

Why the St Helier Hospital Renal Unit is important

Kidneys: They're not sexy but they are necessary...

Dr Tiz North, KOSHH Party candidate for Sutton South, tells us why St Helier Hospital's Renal Unit is an essential service for the local community.

In 1964, the Renal Unit opened at St.Helier hospital and dialysed it’s first two patients. It was one of the first hospitals in the country to do so. 

The unit was the brainchild of Dr Willie Rogers, father of the famous architect Sir Richard Rogers. At that time there were only two consultants in kidney medicine and now there are
14 renal consultants supplying specialist advice at St Helier Hospital and to satellite units in the England's south-east.

From dialysing patients in kidney failure, it moved on to transplantation, a service which sadly has since moved to St.George’s’. However surgeons still perform dialysis-related surgery at St Helier. This allows patients in kidney failure to have extended lives.

Tucked away behind St Helier's Renal Unit is the South West Thames Renal Research Unit. This unit was funded and built by charitable donations and is completely independent of any university or drug company. It produces ground-breaking research into the causes of kidney disease, the knowledge of which then is used to produce new treatments. The research unit is of such high calibre that it has produced nine PhD doctors, who have gone on to become renal consultants across the country with two of them working at St.Helier.

The Renal Unit is indeed the jewel of the crown for St Helier Hospital as many of the patients it supports will testify. However it is not a standalone unit insofar as the consultants support emergency admissions in General Medicine as well as to the Renal Unit. These doctors are also on hand to give advice to the rest of the hospital. 

Residents of Sutton, Merton & Carshalton are very lucky to have a unit of this calibre on their doorstep and long may it last. Let us hope that our local commissioners of healthcare will realise this too. The councils of Merton and Sutton can both play an important role in lobbying commissioners to ensure this service remains at St Helier Hospital and is properly funded.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Dr Tiz North tells why she stands for St Helier Hospital

The KOSHH Party Sutton candidates at St Helier Hospital. 
L to R: Frances Cornford, David Murray, Dave Ash and Dr Tiz North

Dr Tiz North, a consultant radiologist at St Helier Hospital shares her statement of purpose about why she is running on the KOSHH Party ticket in the May 22 local elections.

I believe that the population surrounding Epsom and St Helier Hospitals deserve to be treated by a local hospital trust which has all the secondary services of an Acute District General Hospital.

First, some background to the current situation facing St Helier Hospital... Over the past 30 years, there have been constant attempts by politicians to close St Helier, an excellent hospital with a good reputation. This has sprung out of the belief that there are too many hospital beds in London and therefore several of the outer London District General Hospitals should close.

Indeed, there has been an overall reduction in the number of beds throughout the capital thanks mainly to modern technology which allows day case surgery and intervention by minimal techniques. These advances result in shorter hospital stays. This shift has been led by the clinicians performing these services. It has not been led by politicians. Likewise, the shift of tertiary services, such as transplantation, cardiac and vascular surgery, major trauma, neurosurgery, acute stroke services and paediatric surgery, have all been shifted out of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals. These services are now performed at St George's in Tooting. Again, this was all with the agreement of grassroots physicians.

But what about the present situation? Our two local hospitals, Epsom and St Helier, have been pared down to the essential core services. This includes busy A&E departments, Paediatrics, Maternity, General Surgery (including cancer surgery), Eye Surgery, Urology, Orthopaedics, General Medicine (including diabetes, renal services, palliative care, care of the elderly and dermatology). Because of this wide spread of specialties, both hospitals can cater for the majority of common surgical and medical conditions. This attracts high calibre junior doctors into the surgical and medical rotation schemes as well as students from St George's Medical School.

What could happen in the future? If any of the specialties, especially A&E, Paediatrics or Maternity, were removed from either Epsom or St Helier, a domino situation would arise. If there are no patients admitted to the wards for acute medical or surgical treatment via A&E, this means the hospital loses training recognition by the Royal Colleges and the withdrawal of junior doctors. These doctors would be replaced by doctors in non-training posts, mostly from abroad. A lack of patients means a lack of teaching cases and this would have a negative effect on the presence of medical students. The general downgrading of the hospital means it would not attract top quality consultants and overall patient care could suffer.

Where would the patients be treated if St Helier Hospital was downgraded? The Better Service, Better Value (BSBV) programme may be defunct in name but the SW London Collaborative Commissioning Groups (SWLCCG) is simply the programme's latest incarnation. This group believes that much of the work can be done locally in patients' homes and by GPs. This is despite the fact that GPs are already under too much pressure and more than 50% of GPs are women, many of whom want to work part-time. On top of this, there is not the back-up in the community because there is a shortage of district nurses. 

So, what would be the new reality for patients in our community? In reality, what would happen is that more patients than ever would descend on St George's A&E in Tooting. The physicians there have been quite vocal about not wanting this to happen. This is understandable as they would like to concentrate on the tertiary services they already provide, as well as providing secondary services to their own local population. Like the area surrounding St Helier Hospital, the population around St George's Hospital is increasing.

Are there any solutions? Epsom and St Helier Hospitals should not be subject to any further reconfigurations. Doctors should work with local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to ensure that across the patch every attempt is made to reduce hospital admissions and shorten hospital stays by improving health and social care outside the hospital. In turn, CCGs should support their local hospitals and not reduce funding by such an amount that they become unviable.

Both hospitals should look at their own practice to see how treatments can be improved by rapid investigation and timely intervention.

About Dr Tiz North: Dr North moved from Epsom to Sutton in 1982 and has lived in the same house in South Sutton since then. Both her children went to schools in the local area. She has been a consultant radiologist at St Helier Hospital since 1977 and was previously the Clinical Director of Diagnostic Imaging for Epsom and St Helier. Dr North was also chair of the Local Negotiating Committee. Currently, she is the Honorary Secretary of the SW London Division of the BMA and a member of Keep Our NHS Public.

Photography by Paul McMillan 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Could the Localism Act be used to save St Helier Hospital?

The internet: not just for pictures of cats...

The internet can be a haven of trolls, some say it is only good for sharing pictures of cats, and anyone who has accidentally hit "Reply All" and broadcast something embarrassing to all their colleagues has probably cursed its very existence. But the internet can and should be our friend. Indeed, something that the KOSHH Party loves about the online world is the way it can be used to share ideas.

And one such great idea has come to our attention via the magic of Facebook. Charlie Mansell, a local campaigner, suggested that the Localism Act could be used to save the hospital. Under this act, St Helier Hospital could be deemed an "Asset of Community Value". Nominations cannot be made by individuals but they can be made by parish councils or groups with a connection to the community. There is no shortage of groups connected to the St Helier community and we are confident many of them would be interested in making such a nomination for the hospital. 

The good news is that there is already an "Asset of Community Value" not too far from St Helier Hospital. In Crystal Palace, another great historic neighbourhood of south London, a former bingo hall is now such an asset. Campaigners hope that ultimately this building will become a cinema for the community.

But there is one obstacle to overcome before we get too excited about the prospect of saving our hospital using this law. The nomination needs the approval of the local council, which is Sutton Council in the case of St Helier Hospital. And Sutton Council is the freeholder for the site, which is a rather unusual situation indeed. We are all acutely aware that the St Helier Hospital site would be worth millions if it was ever sold off. Of course, selling off the site would be shortsighted and devastating to the community and, if elected, KOSHH Party councillors for Sutton would never support such a plan.

We challenge all candidates running for Sutton Council to pledge their support for a nomination for St Helier Hospital to be classified as an "Asset of Community Value" under the Localism Act. As the major parties prepare their manifestos for the Sutton campaign, we hope this will be something they all include as a promise to local residents.

Photography by clausjuntke

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sharing information in a few tweets? Not good enough!

This week, the KOSHH Party called out the SW London Collaborative Commissioning Group (SWLCCG)on letting slip some alarming information via Twitter and a link buried in their website.

It was generally thought that in June, there would be an announcement about plans for local hospitals, including St Helier Hospital. This followed on from the disastrously wasteful Better Service, Better Value (BSBV) programme in which the "preferred option" was for St Helier to lose A&E, maternity, renal and paediatric intensive care departments.

But via their Twitter account, SWLCCG revealed that in June they will release a "five-year strategy to set the standards and outcomes commissioners want to achieve" and that "details of how they achieve them will be the next step."

Dr Tiz North, KOSHH Party candidate for Sutton South challenges SWLCCG, saying that these tweets raise more questions than they answer.

She asks SWLCCG: "Is this a case of BSBV in a new guise? Will the CCGs come up with the same strategy via slightly different means, such as applying the unrealistic London Quality Standards?".

In short, St Helier Hospital is not safe. It may seem on the surface that this sort of delay and obfuscation by the SWLCCG is helpful. After all, it delays any definite announcements about closing vital services and no Coalition MP wants to go into the 2015 General Election with the threat of a massive hospital closure hanging over their heads.

But it's not that simple. There have already been cuts to services at St Helier - there is just one paediatric ward with others moved to Epsom General Hospital and Ferguson House, which was to be the winner with the now-abandoned £219m refurbishment is a shell of its former self. Add to this creeping privatisation at St Helier, such as G4S winning a £3.5m contract for driving the hospital's non-emergency ambulances, despite one of their ambulances being involved in a patient losing his life, and it is clear to see we have a death by 1,000 cuts on our hands before any major cuts even happen or are announced.

As Dr Tiz North said, "unrealistic" standards could be applied to St Helier Hospital in the future which could potentially be used to justify a downgrading or, worse still, result in a closure under Clause 119 which gives the Health Secretary the power to close hospitals within 40 days.

This may seem like a rather lofty Westminster-level issue for a local election campaign but we need grassroots activism and action from concerned residents and from Merton and Sutton councillors from all the major parties. We call on Conservative and Liberal-Democrat candidates to challenge their colleagues in the House of Commons who voted for Clause 119 and to point out to them how it could potentially threaten hospitals across England, including St Helier Hospital.

Many thanks to Radio Jackie for breaking the news. Click here to read the story.

Photography by Paul McMillan

Monday, 14 April 2014

Breaking news with the Wimbledon Guardian!

The Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party (KOSHH Party) announced it was running six prospective candidates last month and we were delighted when the Wimbledon Guardian broke the story. The local Guardian newspapers have been very diligent in their ongoing coverage of the fight to save St Helier Hospital from cuts including A&E, maternity, renal and the children's hospital.

Click here to read the story on the Wimbledon Guardian website.

So far, we have had a very positive response to the announcement of the new party as well as a few interesting reactions (but that was to be expected...). 

The comments at the end of the Wimbledon Guardian article make for some interesting reading - and we must thank one Niki Rosenbaum, a Labour Party candidate, for her words of encouragement. The KOSHH Party welcomes and indeed encourages candidates from all political parties to show their support for St Helier Hospital in both word and deed.

Quite simply, we would like to see every candidate running for election for Merton and Sutton Councils publicly commit to supporting St Helier Hospital and fighting any cuts to vital services. For the candidates representing the major parties, we challenge them to lobby their colleagues in Westminster to support the hospital and, for those whose colleagues voted for Clause 119, we challenge local candidates to speak out against this decision. 

Our announcement has generated some discussion on Facebook as well as via our new Twitter account. Be sure to follow us - our Twitter handle is @KOSHHParty

Introducing Britain’s newest political party!

The future of St Helier Hospital is the biggest issue facing residents of Merton and Sutton and this has motivated six residents to declare they are prospective candidates in the May 22 local elections representing the Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party (KOSHH Party).

Meet the KOSHH Party team:

Dr Tiz North (Sutton South Ward, Sutton): Tiz has worked as a Consultant Radiologist at St Helier Hospital since 1977 and was previously the Clinical Director for Diagnostic Imaging for Epsom and St Helier. She has lived in Sutton since 1982.

Tiz says: “It is so important that we defend all the services at St Helier Hospital - A&E, maternity, children’s services, renal, everything. It would be a disaster for all patients and for the local community.”

David Murray (Wallington South Ward, Sutton): David has clocked up more than 25 years for IBM and as a local school governor. Married with three daughters, he now volunteers for St Raphael's Hospice, Age UK and CAFOD. He has lived in Wallington with his wife Anne for more than 40 years.

David says: "St Helier A&E were fantastic when I needed them recently and I want them there for future generations."

Frances Cornford (Sutton West Ward, Sutton): Frances has lived in Sutton for more than seven years and really appreciates the value of having a good local hospital. She believes that local politicians in Sutton are not doing nearly enough to protect St Helier.

Frances says: “Local politicians are full of warm words but little in the way of action. Being part of the Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party is a way to put pressure on politicians of all parties and make them realise how important our hospital and the NHS are to local people.”

David Ash: (Raynes Park Ward, Merton): David is a father and grandfather and he has lived in the borough for 34 years. Now retired, he had a varied career in public service which included running a textile laboratory, training managers, drafting central policy and dealing with Parliamentary business.

David says: “I have lived during the best times the UK has ever known, in which the finest achievement was the creation of the most cost-effective health service in the world, paid for according to means and free according to need. I am determined to fight the attack on St Helier Hospital, which is part of the current giveaway of the NHS to private companies who will care nothing for the health and wellbeing of the nation.”

Sandra Ash (WImbledon Park Ward, Merton): Sandra is a wife, mother and grandmother, and a retired tutor. She has lived in the borough for more than 30 years. She believes that the threat to vital services at St Helier Hospital, such as A&E, maternity, the children’s hospital and the renal unit, is the biggest single issue facing SW London.

Sandra says: “We want to raise public awareness of this threat to St Helier Hospital and the whole community - it needs to stay on the political agenda. It is for that reason that I have decided to stand as a candidate for the Keep Our St Helier Hospital Party.”

Dave Ash (Cheam, Sutton): Dave has a young family, has lived in borough of Sutton for seven years, and has lived in the area for most of his life. Whenever members of his family have used St Helier Hospital, they have always had excellent care, and he knows that they are not alone in this regard.

Dave says: “I believe that the high quality care at St Helier Hospital represents great value to the taxpayer - the whole community will suffer if we lose any of these services. I oppose any privatisation of NHS services - it is a national asset worth fighting for.”

Photography by Paul McMillan