Thursday, 10 October 2013


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Campaigners condemn plan to spend £6m this year on BSBV healthcare review

12:30pm Tuesday 8th October 2013
By Hardeep Matharu
Health campaigners have condemned plans to spend a further £6m of taxpayers' money this year on the healthcare review which is threatening to close Epsom Hospital’s vital services.
The Better Services Better Value (BSBV) healthcare review team plans to spend £436,200 of it on "media, public and training", compared to £124 in their first year, although it insists the amount is good value and will not be spent on PR.
The figures, released by BSBV, reveal the spiralling costs of the review which has earmarked both Epsom and St Helier’s maternity, accident and emergency and paediatric department for closure.
During its first two years combined the review cost just over £6m however this financial year alone the review is proposing to cost £5,989,260.
Staff costs have risen from £75,667 in 2011-12 to a whopping £830,105 in 2013-14 while communications spending has more than doubled to £502,950 this year.
The snowballing costs have sparked a fierce reaction from campaigners.
Chris Grayling MP said: "BSBV has no public support in Surrey and has lost the support of local doctors. At a time when public money is very tight, there is no possible justification in continuing to spend money on a project that looks like it is going nowhere. I'd rather spend the money on nurses instead."
Epsom health campaigner Jane Race said: "The fact that the amount spent on media, public and training in one year amounts to more than most people spend on their family home is quite outrageous.
"BSBV have used this money for a media campaign to deny and undermine public concern about the safety of their proposals. They have employed public relations staff to bombard the public via the internet through social networks like Twitter and through pre-recorded radio shows.
"They have ignored and even blocked clinicians and health campaigners who have raised safety concerns regarding their proposals. They use language such as transforming services, instead of being honest with the public that they are removing services without thought to what will replace them.
"BSBV should use available funds to research local needs and they should adapt their proposals in the light of local clinicians concerns regarding safety."
Bess Harding, health campaigner and fund coordinator for Epsom Medical Equipment Fund, said: "These figures are grossly excessive. Are they subject to a public audit? The public will want to know where this money is being spent. How much will the consultation itself cost?
"Only 15 per cent of Epsom's population would need further care or care at St George's. The remaining 85 per cent of Epsom's population need an A&E and maternity.
"Dozens of houses are being built in Epsom's cachment area so we need additional hospital support.
"Young people will move into these houses that are being built and place extra strain on the maternity services at Epsom. Epsom has a very good reputation and we want to keep it that way."
In a statement the joint directors of BSBV said the costs had been agreed in March, discussed with local councillors and only about a quarter has been spent so far, with the majority being earmaked for the public consultation - which is currently on hold.
They said: "It is expensive to run a best practice public consultation that aims to reach 2 million people across 10 boroughs. We know we need to change services and we need to reach as many people as possible to talk to them about the options.
"Should our proposals go ahead, the savings to the NHS will dwarf the costs of the BSBV programme and those savings will be reinvested to improve local health services."
A BSBV spokesman said the budget for "media, public and training" was in line with similar public consultations and covers everything from advertising public meetings, hiring venues and running a consultation website to Braille materials and training clinicians in best practice consultation and engagement and monitoring media and social media.

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