Merton’s GPs have failed to block proposals to downgrade St Helier Hospital.

Members of Merton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who are now in charge of Merton’s healthcare, have voted unanimously in favour of letting the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review go forward to the next stage.

During the meeting, held earlier today, members of the public hurled insults such as "crooks" and "coward" as the GPs who make up Merton CCG voted to send three delegates to a final meeting where the issue of public consultation will be discussed.

Such was the level of interruption, committee members then voted to eject members of the public from the remainder of the meeting.

The BSBV review is proposing the closure of the the hospital’s A&E and maternity departments and has been widely criticised with protestors demonstrating outside the meeting in the The Broadway in Wimbledon, led by MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh.

Presenting BSBV’s proposals Dr David Finch, medical director of BSBV, said this was their "best stab" at a set of "wicked problems" and that changes were necessary to maintain the quality of healthcare services in south-west London.

He said: "We think we are ready to take our suggestions out to a wider audience to be discussed.

"We are not trying to force anything or rail road anything on the public but this is the advice of several hundred clinicians working across several years across all the sites."

During the meeting board members were faced with a raft of questions from angry members of the public including its chairman, Dr Howard Freeman, who was questioned about a perceived conflict of interest.

He was pressed as to why he only resigned from his position as a partner in Howard Freeman and Partners six weeks ago, and about a previous affiliation with Assura Wandle - a partnership between GPs at 32 local practices and health provider Assura Medical Limited, which now goes under the name Virgin Care.

Dr Freeman was unable to say exactly when he had cut ties with the organisation, or if it had been before he resigned from BSBV as its joint medical director, but said it had been "many months" ago.

At the meeting Dr Freeman insisted he had no conflict of interest and that he had declared any pecuniary interests.

Ms McDonagh raised concerns that the consultation, if it were to run, would take place over the summer holidays when many people would be unavailable which would prevent it from being a "full and fair" conversation.

She also raised concerns over the number of babies which would be transferred to St George’s Hospital should St Helier’s maternity unit close.

The MP said: "Do you really think it is reasonable to have a maternity unit at St George’s of a size that will be up to 8,000 before very long?

"Does that provide a quality of services and experience that you would want for mothers to be?"

While Dr Philip Howard, representative of the British Medical Association at St Helier, called BSBV review the most "expensive piece of fiction we are likely to see in our lives."

Rachel Tindle, senior responsible officer at BSBV, confirmed that the review was currently running at a cost of £2m per year with £750,000 earmarked to fund a public consultation on the review.

As board members unanimously agreed to send three delegates to attend a further meeting on June 3 to discuss putting forward the proposals to a public consultation, shouts of "coward" and "shame on you" were heard.

Seven CCGs in SW London and north Surrey affected by the review have the chance to block the review by voting to stop it going out for public consultation.

Following the meeting a spokesperson for NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group CCG said: "At our meeting today, our Governing Body scrutinised the BSBV draft pre-consultation business case.

"No decisions were made on any future public consultation or on the options for consultation.

"We did decide to nominate three of our members to go forward and meet NHS England and the other CCGs in south west London and Surrey during June.

"At this June meeting, we will decide together whether to take the options proposed by BSBV to public consultation.

"We know that there are very strong feelings locally about future services at St Helier Hospital, and we note both the comments made by members of the public at today's meeting, and the views expressed in the emails we received before the meeting.

"We will continue to listen to people's views, both now and during any proposed future public consultation.

"Our role as clinical commissioners for Merton is very much to scrutinise and look critically at the proposals put forward as part of the BSBV programme, and we will demand further detailed work in those areas where we feel greater clarity and assurance is needed, particularly around urgent care, community care and primary care.

"However, we are in broad agreement that no change is not an option, and we will continue to work with other local CCGs and clinicians to ensure that patients in south west London and Surrey receive high quality, sustainable care."

The Surrey Downs CCG, the group of GPs responsible for Epsom, is expected to put forward their views on the proposals at a meeting tomorrow.

All seven CCGs will send delegates to a group meeting on June 3 where they must be unanimous in their decision to go to public consultation.