With consultation now open on the future of emergency care in South London, one campaign group has criticised the NHS for not releasing information much earlier.

On Wednesday, January 8, consultation was launched on three potential options for the location of a new specialist emergency care hospital.

The options are at Epsom Hospital, St Helier Hospital or in Sutton, next to the Royal Marsden.

The NHS has stated that the preferred option is building a new emergency hospital to be built in Sutton and for the other two to be downgraded, losing their A&E departments.

Sandra Ash from campaign group Keep Our St Helier Hospital, said she thinks leaflet drops with information about the plans should have taken place before the consultation opened.

“I was shocked to hear that they’re starting the consultation now when most people won’t have any opportunity to begin to understand what’s involved in the plans,” she said.

“They are talking about leaflet drops and if they were going to serve any purpose it would have to go out before the consultation started.

“I think it is a really dangerous idea. If they were offering a new facility in Sutton but what they are actually doing is removing acute services from Epsom and St Helier.

“They are suggesting that travel times would be hardly any longer. But the longer people are in an ambulance the more chance there is of harm, damage and death occurring.

“The demand on the ambulance service is going to be drastically increased.”

The changes will come as £500 million is set to be invested in health services in Sutton, Merton and Surrey Downs.

Of this £80 million is set to be invested in Epsom and St Helier hospitals.

A meeting of Merton Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body heard that leaflet drops are set to take place between Monday, January 13, and Saturday, January 18. These are set to target all homes in the catchment area.

At the meeting on Wednesday (January 8), Dr Andrew Murray, Merton CCG chair, said that even if the Sutton option is chosen, both Epsom and St Helier will have a 24-hour urgent treatment centres.

And he disputed claims that beds will be reduced in the proposed plans, saying that there would be an increase of four beds across the area.

In response to consultation concerns he added: “The whole point of the consultation is sharing information with patients and the public. We had not formally agreed that we would go out [with the consultation] until Monday (January 6).

“Most people need it explained in a clear way that means something to them. That is why we’re going out and doing public meetings in all sorts of different formats.”

The consultation will run until April 1. For more information visit improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk/consultation.