Sutton has been chosen as the site for a new, state-of-the-art emergency healthcare facility in the area, despite opposition from many residents who worried it would sideline emergency care in Epsom.

In what amounted to a highly significant moment for the future of healthcare in the area, NHS Surrey Heartlands and NHS South West London clinical commissioning groups voted to approve the new emergency care facility in Sutton on Friday (July 3).

Plans for sites in Epsom and St Helier had also been suggested during the decision making process but were ultimately dismissed in favour of Sutton.

The new care facility will arrive as part of a massive state investment of £500 million for improving Epsom and St Helier Hospitals.

Friday's decision had long been expected in the area after health leaders in Surrey and South West London expressed their preference for Sutton early on in the decision-making process.

They said on making the decision, as they had throughout the process, that "around 85 per cent of current services will stay put at Epsom and St Helier."

Six "major services" will meanwhile be "brought together in the new specialist emergency care hospital, including A&E, critical care and emergency surgery," a statement announcing the news read.

Health leaders welcomed the vote as the decision was made public and gave their grounds for optimism about the massive investment for public healthcare in the area.

Dr Andrew Murray, GP and Clinical Chair at NHS South West London Clinical Commissioning Group, shared his thoughts:

“Today’s decision will see £500m invested to build a brand new emergency care hospital in Sutton and modernise Epsom and St Helier hospitals," he said.

"This means people can get the care they need in refurbished buildings locally, with a brand new specialist hospital nearby if they need it.

"This will give our residents the quality of care they need in the buildings and facilities our NHS staff deserve," he added.

Surrey Comet: Residents in Epsom have expressed concerns about the move of emergency care to Sutton. Image: Epsom HospitalResidents in Epsom have expressed concerns about the move of emergency care to Sutton. Image: Epsom Hospital

The decision was accompanied by a number of pledges that sought to address some of the serious concerns raised by those who opposed Sutton as the new site for the A&E centre, including:

  • Extending the H1 Epsom and St Helier hospital bus route into Merton and further south into Surrey beyond Epsom and increasing the frequency between the three hospital sites
  • Reviewing car parking on all three sites to make sure there’s enough for patients, visitors and staff
  • Increased bed capacity to care for an extra 1,300 inpatients a year, plus advances in technology, treatment and closer working with community services so fewer patients will need an overnight stay and will get home sooner
  • Exploring opportunities for primary care services at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and expanding child and adolescent mental health services on the St Helier site.

As the Surrey Comet reported previously, Epsom residents in particular strongly opposed the preference to locate the new emergency care facility in Sutton.

During the public consultation process, Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) voiced those concerns about the Sutton site on several grounds.

They pointed 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 backing for the Sutton site 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 previously.