A recommendation to remove a successful orthopaedic centre from Epsom Hospital did not make "an iota of difference" to its talks to merge with Ashford and St Peter’s, according to the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) team.

At a meeting at Blenheim High School on Thursday, February 7, organised by MP Chris Grayling, to discuss the future of Epsom Hospital within the BSBV review, Michael Bailey, joint medical director of the BSBV review, was asked why a recommendation was made last summer to move Epsom’s flagship and lucrative Elective Orthopaedic Centre (EOC) to St Helier.

The EOC is based at Epsom, but shared in partnership with St Helier and Kingston, Croydon and St George's hospitals.

Epsom Hospital was in talks to merge with Ashford and St Peter’s hospital at the time the recommendation to move it was made. 

At a meeting of Surrey County Council’s health scrutiny committee last month -  the BSBV team acknowledged the proposal to move the EOC as "one of the reasons why the merger was not able to proceed".

Speaking at Thursday's meeting, Mr Bailey said: "It’s true that in the first phase of the BSBV review, when we were talking about services in South West London, we wanted to repatriate the EOC to the fourth site [St Helier]. 

"Epsom’s EOC provides services to South West London and Epsom.  70 to 80 per cent of patients who go there are actually from London. 

"To say that this is a Surrey institution is actually wrong. 

"The surplus profit from procedures performed at Epsom’s EOC is divided between all the hospitals which contribute patients there so actually removing it from Epsom would not have made an iota of difference to the Ashford and St Peter’s bid."

Mr Grayling hit back at Mr Bailey’s comments and said: "The EOC is relatively new. It is seen as a first-class facility and it is few miles away from South London. 

"What on earth would be the logic of closing it down and moving it to St Helier? It would be a waste of public money when it’s in short supply. 

"If it’s ok for people in Epsom to go to South London, why is it not ok for people in South London to come to Epsom?"

Mr Bailey said it was "perfectly ok" for people to travel in either direction and a report into Epsom’s EOC had shown that patients from South West London were prepared to travel to Epsom for the service.

He said: "The reason we recommended this was that we wanted to have a planned care centre which catered for all specialities. 

"So we could have said ‘OK, we will take the orthopaedic activity from Epsom and put it together with a planned care centre somewhere in London’, but we didn’t. We said we thought it would make sense to move the EOC [to St Helier].

"When we had discussions with Ashford and St Peter’s, they had plans to fill the EOC with something other than elective orthopaedics."