An NHS plan to reduce services at one of five South West London acute hospitals, including Kingston, is only viable if alternative plans are made for patients a think tank has said.
Acute hospitals provide A&E services, elective surgeries and specialist treatments which could be removed from Croydon, Kingston, St. George, Epsom and St. Helier hospitals.
According to a draft plan written by the King’s Fund think tank, NHS services were already “feeling the strain” of overcrowding.
“Proposals to reduce capacity in hospitals will only be credible if there are coherent plans to provide alternatives,” the report said.
A five year Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) released last November by the NHS South West London Collaborative Commissioning suggested reducing bed capacity at one of the five hospitals in order to save money, citing an £828m funding gap by 2020-21 if nothing is done.
This follows reports from NHS Improvement last week that the NHS spent £900 million in the nine months to December 2016.
The King’s Fund report said: “The combination of changes being proposed in South West London seeks to bring about a 44 per cent reduction in acute inpatient bed days, a 20 per cent reduction in ‘unnecessary’ outpatient appointments and a 13 per cent reduction in elective surgical activity.”
The think-tank cited studies suggesting the NHS actually need 17,000 more beds to contend with the strain it is currently under as there are “acute hospitals working at or beyond the limits of current capacity, and bed occupancy rates are well above the recommended level of 85 per cent”.
A spokesperson for NHS South West London said: “The NHS in South West London is considering how services should be organised across different hospitals, but has not yet reached the stage of making any recommendations on this. At this early stage, no decisions have been made and no changes will be made without input and engagement and appropriate consultation with our local residents.”
The South West London Collaborative Commissioning has said there will be a public consultation should significant service changes be proposed.