This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 02/05/2017.
Is there a danger that Croydon could be left without a hospital?
The upcoming General Election has been called a “referendum” on the future of Croydon University Hospital, but what are the facts about the future of the site on Mayday Road?
The hospital’s future has become a bone of contention between the major players in June’s political showdown.
Labour have insisted the borough’s only hospital would be threatened with closure under a Conservative government, while the Tories themselves have called the claims “scaremongering”.
The NHS is often a battleground for warring political parties.
Croydon North MP Steve Reed has said CUH has been placed on a list of hospitals that could potentially close, as NHS cuts make multiple hospitals in south London difficult to maintain.
He said: “It would be a disgrace that London’s most populous borough, which Croydon is, could be left entirely without a hospital – it’s a scandal.
“Croydon University Hospital is still under threat. It is one of five hospitals up for review due to spending cuts. Labour will guarantee the future of the hospital.
“This election will be a referendum on whether Croydon has its own hospital.”
Five hospitals covering the south west London area – CUH, St George’s Hospital, in Tooting, St Helier Hospital, in Sutton, Epsom Hospital and Kingston Hospital – were listed with a recommendation that these five major sites be reduced to just four.
St George’s may already be safe from closure.
A report by the South West London Collaborative Commissioning Group (responsible for paying for care in the area) says that four hospitals would be more sustainable financially – there is not enough money to pay for a seven-day service at all five current sites.
Croydon’s NHS trust alone is £30 million in the red and has to make £7 million worth of savings in the coming year.
As a result of this, Labour fear CUH could be the hospital facing closure as part of cost-cutting measures, which they also believe led to a five-year high in Croydon’s A&E waiting times and have caused a drastic shortage of GPs.
However, the fact remains that CUH has been given £20 million for a new A&E department with funding secured and plans in place for construction of the facility.
The investment has been taken as a sign by Conservative MP Chris Philp that there is no imminent threat of closure.
The Croydon South MP said: “This [suggestion CUH could close] is outrageous scaremongering. I have spoken to senior NHS professionals and CUH is not under any threat.
“Why would the NHS be spending over £20 million on a new A&E, which is currently under construction, if it was at any risk of closure?
“NHS spending is now at a record level, and set to increase further. There are now over 10,000 more doctors and 11,000 more nurses in the NHS than there were under Labour and the NHS is doing more than one million more operations per year.”
So what does the trust itself have to say on the debate?
A spokesman for Croydon’s NHS trust said: “There are no plans to close Croydon University Hospital, and we look forward to opening our new emergency department.”
The trust has also confirmed the necessary funding for the new A&E has been secured from the government, and work is already well under way.
The spokesman added: “The funding for the emergency department has been agreed by the Department of Health and already allocated to the trust.
“Construction of the new emergency department is well under way, with the Resus area due to open this month and the rest of the new building scheduled to be fully completed this winter.”
The “record spending” attributed by some to the Conservative government has been questioned by healthcare professionals, who have said the overall figure does not reflect spending per person.
The number of extra doctors and nurses referenced by Mr Philp are national figures, while at the local level there is currently a shortage of GPs according to doctors.
Social care budgets in Croydon have been slashed by more than £10 million in the last three years, and more than £60 million has been cut from spending on elderly, mental health and other adult care.
This creates a backlog which hits A&E – there is no one to look after those leaving hospital – which may explain waiting times missing targets in recent years. Issues of healthcare, of course, stretch beyond hospital walls.