Just three members of Surrey’s GP commissioning group will decide the fate of Epsom Hospital, after its governing body voted to delegate responsibility for voting on options to downgrade the hospital at a meeting attended by hundreds of people today.

The decision at the meeting of the governing body of Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (SDCCG), which it decided to hold in public at Epsom Downs Racecourse, sparked outrage, with residents and doctors branding it “totally undemocratic”.

The governing body was expected to take a vote today, by show of hands, as to whether the proposals in the Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review, to axe Epsom Hospital’s A&E, maternity and children’s units, should go to public consultation – a process which happened in neighbouring Sutton last week. 

But, SDCCG decided to follow Merton’s CCG and voted for three of its members – chief officer Miles Freeman, lay member Gavin Cookman and Dr Simon Williams – to take the decision at a meeting of all the CCGs involved in June.

It did not give an explanation for its decision.

It emerged last week that, in December, the membership council of the CCG, which consists of representatives from each of the 33 GPs surgeries in Surrey Downs, voted to delegate its decision-making powers with regards to BSBV to its governing body alone.

Today's decision for a further delegation of power led one member of the governing body, lay member Cliff Bush, to abstain from voting for or against it.

He said: “I had no prior knowledge of the decision to delegate responsibility for the BSBV proposals.”

Epsom Town and Downs Surrey County Councillor Tina Mountain said the decision was undemocratic and that the governing body itself is “not democratically elected to answer to us”.

Janet Nicholls, a paediatrician at Epsom Hospital, agreed and said the BSBV proposals were “style and spin over substance” and that the process could better be described as “the emperor’s new clothes”.

At the meeting, members of the governing body conducted a presentation, setting out the aims and proposals of BSBV, and then took questions from the floor.

A number of issues were raised by concerned audience members, including travelling times to London hospitals from Epsom and the potential effect of this on mortality rates, why Epsom Hospital had been included in a review of healthcare across South West London, the views of Epsom’s doctors on the proposals, and the rationale behind the BSBV review itself.

Dr Shaharta, clinical director for women and children at Epsom Hospital, said: “I have been a member of BSBV for several years.

"There will always be disagreement, but I am not satisfied that my views have been heard and properly considered. The models also lack clinical coherence.”

Councillor Chris Townsend: "This is a Surrey hospital. Epsom is needed for the residents of North Surrey. It is a disgrace.

"Why is a conglomeration of London hospitals making decisions about a Surrey hospital, which is needed in Surrey?"

One member of the public raised concerns over “potential perceived conflicts of interests” of the governing body’s members as she said one-third of them had interests in private healthcare companies.

Dr Simon Williams, on the governing body, said the CCG was “more than aware that travel is an issue which is important and relevant to the population of Surrey Downs.”

He added: “If a consultation process is agreed, there will need to be a significant amount of work done in this area.”

Miles Freeman, chief officer of the governing body, said: "There was an alternative attempt to solve the long-term future for Epsom through a transaction with Ashford and St Peter's but that was not able to go through because there was no way for the hospital to be financially viable in five years with its current configuration.

"This CCG's wish is that whatever comes out of this process, we would like to consider a future for Epsom Hospital as part of the Surrey system."

Speaking after the meeting, MP Chris Grayling said he still believes that the BSBV proposals will go to public consultation and that today’s outcome was “just the next step in the battle”.

He said: “The turnout today was tremendous and that rattled them, I don’t think they were expecting the room to fill up.

“I want the CCG to look at Surrey options for Epsom.  Behind the scenes there is growing support for them to recognise that they should be doing this.

"The big problem is that no one has made a compelling case for change.  It’s difficult to see how these proposals really improve healthcare in the area.

“Epsom will be cannibalised to improve hospitals in London and people will go elsewhere in Surrey.”

What do you think about today's decision? Call Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on 0208 722 6346, email hmatharu@london.newsquest.co.uk, or leave a comment below.