Monday, 5 May 2014

Some important questions for the Epsom-St Helier Trust

World Press Freedom Day has been observed for another year. And, thanks to the internet, the good news is that it is getting easier to be part of the free press in Britain. While we were disappointed that the Sutton Guardian profile of Chrisha Alagaratnam, new Chief Executive of the Epsom-St Helier Trust did not include answers to important questions, we were heartened to see that people were keen to jump on board in the comments section and challenge the information in the article.

Over on Twitter, the KOSHH Party Twitter account (@KOSHHParty) asked Ms Alagaratnam a few questions in relation to the Sutton Guardian article. Originally £219m had been earmarked to fund improvements at St Helier and then it was announced that this would be reduced to £90m over five years. In the Sutton Guardian article, it said that £78m would be spent. So our first question was, quite simply, what's going on?

Ms Alagaratnam responded promptly thus: "£90m was at Feb 13/14. £78m is from the new financial year 14/15 for the next five years as we have already begun investing."

So that would mean that £12m has already been spent on upgrades to St Helier Hospital. Thus, we asked additional questions over Twitter. We received a tweet from the trust's communications department account requesting that we ask any further questions via email. Certainly over email, nobody is not limited to the 140-character format of Twitter for questions and answers but we prefer a more transparent approach.

With the principle of transparency as our guiding light, we publicly ask the following questions of the Epsom-St Helier Trust.

1. Has the calculation of £78m for upgrades to St Helier Hospital allowed for inflation over the next five years?

2. Given that 12m has already been spent, can we please be told what this money has funded?

3. Can we please have a detailed breakdown of how the remaining £78m will be spent?

4. Is this £78m in the form of a loan that will have to be paid back?

5. Why is there no mention in the Sutton Guardian article of the role of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in hospital spending? Given the CCGs have been assigned the task of reducing spending across multiple hospitals in SW London, it seems curious that they are conspicuous by their absence from the Sutton Guardian article.

We look forward to answers to these questions from the Epsom-St Helier Trust. Unlike Twitter, there is plenty of room for extensive responses in the comments section of this blog post.

If elected to Merton and Sutton Councils, KOSHH Party candidates promise to publicly hold all decision-makers to account in relation to the future of St Helier Hospital and urge all candidates to promise to do the same. We want to see a future in which Merton and Sutton councillors from across the political spectrum unite in support of our hospital.  

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