The Health Secretary Alan Johnson has accepted recommendations made by an independent panel to move the services based at the Bolingbroke Hospital in the short term to the nearby St John’s Therapy Centre in Battersea.

The announcement means that St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Wandsworth Teaching Primary Care NHS Trust can begin to move services to St John’s which offers the Bolingbroke’s patients modern and improved facilities less than one mile away from the Bolingbroke site.

In July 2007, the Executive Boards of both Trusts voted unanimously to move services to St John’s for the next three to five years, following a three month public consultation. But the Wandsworth Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny moved to block this decision as it considered the healthcare trusts had not paid sufficient attention to the weight of public opinion against the closure of the Bolingbroke.

The public response to the consultation showed that many did not want services to move from the Bolingbroke Hospital. However, the building does not meet health and safety requirements and, with 80 per cent of the site empty, investment of public money to refurbish the hospital would be difficult for the Trusts to justify.

The Secretary of State referred the OSC’s concerns to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) which has carefully assessed the Trust’s reasoning for the move.

In his response Mr Johnson wrote: “The IRP’s view is that Bolingbroke Hospital is not a suitable environment for health services. I consider it would be impractical to address these concerns whilst maintaining patient services on the site and therefore, the decision to relocate most of the services to the nearby St John’s Therapy Centre appears to be a sensible interim measure.”

The decision means that the Bolingbroke’s services can continue to care for the local community in new surroundings that are worthy of the care its staff provide and are in keeping with the expectations of patients.

St George’s Chief Executive David Astley said: “There are many who value the care the Bolingbroke provides, and we want to continue this at St John’s. St John’s offers our patients and staff the high-quality environment that they deserve, and above all, it keeps the Bolingbroke’s services close to the local community based less than a mile away.”

St George’s had made a public commitment not to dispose the Bolingbroke site until the outcome of a wider public consultation by the PCT into the health needs of people in Battersea and north Wandsworth is known.

“We are now talking to local people to ask how we can better meet their health needs,” says Ann Radmore, Chief Executive of Wandsworth Teaching PCT. “We’re not just looking at the Bolingbroke site and the services currently provided there, we’re looking at all health services in Battersea and north Wandsworth; where they are provided from and what additional sites in the borough we might be able to use to develop options to improve services and better meet the long term health needs of the population. We’ve held over 20 workshops with a wide range of local stakeholders from across the borough including carers, residents, mental health users, young people as well as NHS staff and GPs. This feedback will help us form options for formal consultation which will begin in 2008.”

No Bolingbroke services are to close as a result of this move. The Day Hospital for the elderly, imaging and ultrasound, and outpatient clinics will all move to St John’s once building work is complete early next year. The PCT’s dental service will move to Balham Health Centre on Bedford Hill to take advantage of the Health Centre’s modern facilities, and the PCT’s podiatry service will also move to St John’s to join the podiatry service already based there, as previously agreed by the Wandsworth OSC in September.

The only change to services is that the Day Hospital will move from a full-day model of care to a half-day. This is in keeping with best practice elsewhere in the country by minimising delays between appointments so that patients need not spend as much time in hospital.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please contact: For Wandsworth Teaching PCT, Lizzie Whetnall, Head of Communications, on 020 8682 6835 or St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Daniel Pople, Acting Head of Communications, on 020 8725 5151
  2. The Bolingbroke Hospital is owned and managed by St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
  3. The Bolingbroke Hospital was built in the 1880s and extensive building work would be required to bring the building up to modern standards. A minimum investment of ?6 million would be required to comply with the most basic of health and safety requirements. It would cost a maximum of £16m to internally demolish and refurbish the hospital. Any bids for this investment from NHS London might not be successful, given the requirement for value for money and prioritising investment in services in deprived areas.