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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
London: Hospital closures anger
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

St Helier Hospital
St Helier Hospital... at the center of community concerns

While the government paves the way, to announcing how it is going to 'reconfigure' the NHS, one community in South London is gearing up for a fight.

The most controversial of ideas, comes in a report that states that it would be viable to close down nine hospitals in London.

It is not that they would close completely, but they would have critical services moved elsewhere.

It would leave these hospitals offering non-emergency care only.

Naturally, nobody will want to lose their nearest A&E.

That is going to the problem with 'reconfiguration'.

Opposition

While NHS bosses talk of population figures, close distances between hospitals and improving the quality of care - on the ground, there are already early signs of fierce opposition.

One hospital that campaigners think might be under threat is St Helier in Carshalton.

Surgeons and work
What future for emergencies in Carshalton?

The trust that runs it has been told it has to save 20m over the next two years and already cutbacks are being made at St Helier.

These cutbacks are both small (a nurse told me she can not have bottled water on the ward) and large - two more wards are to be closed, the Union rep said, by Christmas.

It is this evidence of de-scaling operations that is worrying locals and health campaigners.

They are worried this hospital, built in the 30's and found "unfit for 21st Century care" in more than one inspection, will be downgraded.

That means, they will lose A&E, maternity and paediatrics.

If so, the nearest critical care facility will be St Georges in Tooting - it is only 3.24 miles away on the map but in rush hour, is half an hour away.

Community anger

Surgeon holding newly born baby
Maternity wards may be on the hit list

In 1999, it was promised that a single, super hospital would be built in the locality that would take over critical care services from both Epsom and St Helier General.

Despite plans being proposed year on year, nothing has been built.

Now locals think that not only will they never get the long-promised new hospital, but the one they have, will be downgraded - and as good as, closed.

We will also hear from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), on the programme, about its vision for healthcare in London.

It is an independent think-tank that has looked closely at how and what to provide to Londoners.

The Politics Show London

Join the Politics Show team on Sunday 08 October 2006 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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