England

Chris Grayling MP: Epsom Hospital 'could be run privately'

Suggestions that a private firm could give Epsom Hospital a future after an NHS merger failed have come from an MP.

Chris Grayling, Epsom MP, has said he wants a future and leadership for Epsom Hospital - whether it comes from the private sector or the NHS.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire became a high performer under private firm Circle, he said.

Epsom and St Helier NHS is looking at options for the hospital after a merger with another NHS trust was halted.

In October, NHS London agreed the proposed acquisition of Epsom Hospital by Ashford and St Peter's NHS should be halted for financial reasons.

'Financial risk'

Mr Grayling said Hinchingbrooke still had financial challenges but its A&E had become the best performing in East Anglia.

He said: "I'm not worried whether the management that comes in is private sector or another NHS trust, I just want some leadership for Epsom."

He said there had been talks in the past about whether Epsom's services should be moved to St Helier Hospital in south London - Epsom Hospital is currently part of Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust.

Mr Grayling added: "I thought we'd got beyond that. I absolutely clearly want to see a divorce now, a clean break between the two."

Geoff Martin, from Health Emergency, said: "The problem isn't about public or private. The problem is that we've got a trust that is simply lacking in any clear leadership and direction."

'GPs to decide'

He said he opposed involving a private firm because private companies "could go bust", the bottom line would be about profit, and it would be a risk.

Epsom and St Helier chief executive Matthew Hopkins said the trust was working with commissioning GPs who would decide, from April, what local services were needed.

He added: "I would like to assure our patients and local people that whilst we are making decisions about the long-term future of our hospitals, our priority will - as ever - continue to be ensuring we provide the very best services."

The NHS trust said bids were invited last year for organisations to run Epsom Hospital. It said Circle made a joint bid with the Royal Surrey County Hospital, which was later withdrawn.

The trust also said its hospitals were performing well and its staff were providing a high level of care, which had been proved in the Dr Foster Guide 2012.

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