Hospital journey times from Sutton and Wimbledon to Croydon and Tooting 'to triple' if St Helier A&E axed
Travel times to your nearest hospitals could triple if St Helier loses its vital services - a road test has revealed.
NHS south west London laid out its predictions of increased travel times as part of its Better Services, Better Value review (BSBV) - should St Helier lose its Accident and Emergency and maternity unit as widely expected.
BSBV claimed - in figures used by independent panellists to help reach a recommendation to close services at St Helier - it would take residents no more than 6mins and 54secs on top of their current travel time, to reach an alternative hospital by car on an average day, and no more than 12mins 24 secs minutes in a worst case scenario.
These represent an increase of 36 and 64 per cent respectively.
But the predictions have been criticised as being "optimistic" at best and an "insult to public intelligence" at worst.
After timing our journey from our offices near Sutton train station to all three south west London hospitals and Epsom hospital, we found residents in Sutton could expect a 210 per cent increase on their journey time if travelling to Croydon Hospital, a 141 per cent increase if travelling to St Georges and an 81 per cent increase if travelling to Epsom.
Each journey time exceeded BSBVs average predictions and on two occasions those times exceeded its worst case scenario predictions. Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon said: "In terms of what you have discovered clearly the reality is rather different to what’s put on paper.
"The experience you have found is likely to be the experience of most people.
"It will be quite clear in the consultation that these are the issues people will need to keep in the forefront of their mind.
"When you have an emergency you want to be sure that you can get there quickly or an ambulance can and what you have proven on investigation is that these times are at the least optimistic."
Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden added: "Nobody who lives locally believes that it’s only going to take an extra 12 minutes.
"Anyone who has dealt with traffic in Colliers Wood or Mitcham town centre, or indeed most parts of south London would not believe that. It insults public intelligence."
Greater numbers of patients will instead be expected to travel to Epsom Hospital which can currently accommodate up to 62,000 patients.
A spokesperson for Epsom Hospital said any increase above this figure would be "unsustainable without an increase in the number of staff and additional investment in the A&E and wider hospital". Dr David Finch, GP and joint BSBV medical director, said: "The money follows the patient, so if more patients are treated at Epsom, then the hospital will receive more funding."
He added: "Travel times are based on a weighted average of all times, so we would expect the journey times to take longer on some occasions than others.
"The results from the test are not that different to our own figures. Miss McDonagh will be hosting a public meeting at the civic centre in Morden on June 28 at 7.30pm to discuss St Heliers future with speakers including a doctor and midwife expected to attend.
How long BSBV said it would take.
Average expected extra increase in travel time to get to another hospital - 6m 54s.
Worst case scenario expected increase in travel time to get to another hospital - 12m 24s
How long it took in our test. Sutton to St Helier: 11mins 22secs.
Sutton to Croydon takes 35mins 2secs - a 210 per cent increase with a journey time of 23mins 40secs more than going to St Helier.
Sutton to St Georges takes 27mins 22secs - a 141 per cent increase with a journey time of 16mins more than going to St Helier.
Sutton to Epsom takes 20min 35secs - a 81 per cent increase with a journey time of 9mins 13secs more than going to St Helier