The decision over where to build a new emergency care facility looked a step closer towards Sutton this week despite a forceful argument being made for Epsom after responses of the public consultation process were published.

On Friday (May 22) the Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who are leading the project to invest £500 million in the area’s health services, published reports on the extensive publication consultations over the plans.

A spokesperson for the Surrey Heartlands CCG said that Sutton had received most support for the site of a new emergency care facility that will form the central pillar of the new investment

“Looking across all consultation strands, on balance Sutton received more support as the preferred site, but support did vary depending on where consultees lived,” the statement read.

The Surrey Heartlands CCG have made their preference for the Sutton site clear.

They point out the building work would be more straightforward on the Sutton site, taking four years, as opposed to an estimated six for Epsom and seven at St Helier.

Building in Sutton would allow for three urgent treatment centres rather than two at either Epsom or St Helier Hospitals, the CCG have argued.

However, Epsom residents have expressed concerns about the shift in focus on emergency care provision away from Epsom Hospital, as alluded to by Friday’s report on the consultation.

“The strongest support for either Epsom or St Helier as the new site came from residents living closest to these hospitals,” the CCG statement conceded.

Further details of resistance to the existing proposals were published in the CCG report.

Among them was a questionnaire response from Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) who sought to convey the concerns of many Epsom residents about the existing plans.

“The preferred solution is to locate the new hospital at Epsom,” EEBC said, conceding that Sutton was their second choice.

The council voiced concerns about the Sutton site on several grounds, pointing out that “travel time is of significant concern to our residents, especially during peak-times...Epsom and Ewell are predicted to see a significant increase in population size... As such (this) may lead to a greater need to acute services.

“Epsom is the cheapest site to develop... We also need to highlight the needs of our more vulnerable residents...There are a disproportionate number of health conditions within these communities that may lead to requiring acute care,” EEBC said.

One of most forceful oppositions to the CCG’s project meanwhile came from the Unison union representing workers at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals.

“Unison is profoundly concerned that the proposal to centralise acute hospital services and specialist inpatient care on a new 496-bed hospital in Sutton will result in a serious loss of provision of acute beds and front-line acute services, downgrade the existing services at both Epsom and St Helier, undermine the possibility of further development...and, by establishing a more complex 3-site service in place of the two existing sites, worsen rather than improve the efficiency of the service and the problems of recruiting and retaining staff,” a spokesperson said.

It is unclear whether such opposition will have any impact on the final outcome.

Commenting on the consultation report, Dr Charlotte Canniff, GP and Clinical Chair at NHS Surrey Heartlands CCG said: “Today’s report shows there is clear support for this vital investment but also some concerns that we are already looking at as part of our next steps...It is important to remember that under any of the proposals most services will stay where they are now.”

The final decision on the location of the emergency care facility is expected to be made on July 3.