First published in The Croydon Advertiser on 30 August 2013
Steve Reed, my counterpart in north Croydon, has recently launched a campaign to save the Accident & Emergency and Maternity Units at Croydon University Hospital.
He’s right to say that it would be crazy for a town of Croydon’s size to have a hospital without these vital services and I would be happy to work with him to protect them - were it not for the fact that his campaign is both misleading and misguided in several regards.
The letter Steve has sent to various community groups says “the Government are consulting on plans that include, as one option, closing down Croydon University Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Unit and downgrading its maternity services”.
First, the formal consultation hasn’t started yet.
Second, these are not Government proposals. They have been put together by doctors in south west London and are yet to be considered by Ministers.
Third and most importantly, the letter makes no mention of the fact that changes at Croydon University Hospital are the least preferred option, nor does it describe what the other options are. Advertiser readers may be interested to know that the preferred option is to downgrade services at St Helier and Epsom hospitals and to improve services in Croydon, expanding and modernising our Accident & Emergency and Maternity Units and ensuring that we have the recommended levels of senior doctor cover twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to improve standards of care.
A couple of months ago, Steve, Richard Ottaway and I met Croydon GPs for a briefing on these proposals. They made it crystal clear to us that they are opposed to downgrading services at Croydon but believe that the preferred option is absolutely vital, both to ensure the viability of the NHS across south west London and to improve standards of care at Croydon University Hospital. I recently met those responsible for running our local hospital and they too strongly support the preferred option.
So why does Steve’s letter make no mention of this option? Why isn’t he encouraging his constituents to support it? When I questioned him about this, he told me he is against any changes in south west London - in others words, he’s against a proposal supported by both our local GPs and our local hospital that would improve standards of care for his constituents. It’s all rather mystifying - particularly given he didn’t say a word at our meeting with Croydon GPs to indicate he took a different view. I can only assume that the Labour Party has taken a collective decision to oppose these proposals and that Steve has chosen to toe the party line, rather than support proposals that would improve the quality of care at our local hospital.
I can’t support that. My constituents tell me that the quality of care at Croydon University Hospital isn’t consistently good enough. We shouldn’t be campaigning to keep things as they are. Of course, when the consultation gets underway we should strongly argue that a town of Croydon’s size needs its own A&E and Maternity Units. But we should also support proposals that will see those Units modernised and properly staffed.