(Presentation given at 2010 League of Friends Annual General Meeting)

 Leatherhead Hospital Past, Present, and Future

Dr Fred Meynen

The story of Leatherhead Hospital is very close to Fred Meynen’s heart, and this came across very clearly in his talk. Fred, a general practitioner who has been involved with the hospital since 1968, had brought along a range of medical artefacts for the audience to handle, after warning ‘those of a nervous disposition’!

Dr Meynen described the history of the cottage hospital movement, and showed slides of the succession of sites of our hospital from our first hospital in 1893 which really was a cottage, up to the present site built through the efforts of Dr Von Bergan and Mr Leach on land bought from the estate of Mrs Still. In 1939 the cost of the building was £47,000. With remarkable foresight the materials were on site before the start of WW2, otherwise the hospital would not have been built.

One of the greatest assets of the hospital was the personal care given by the GP s who would arrange your admission, continue your care in hospital, arrange tests and X-rays, arrange consultations with consultant specialists and then discharge you when you were well - seamless care. They were good times, but things moved on. In 1980s operations under general anesthetic ceased at Leatherhead and this had a profound effect on the activities at the hospital and the type of patients looked after on the wards. The other major change was that in 2003 the management of the hospital was transferred from Epsom General Hospital to East Elmbridge and Mole Valley Primary Care Trust. This later became Surrey PCT, then NHS Surrey. In 2007 all the hospital and community nurses and staff including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, radiographers etc were re-employed by Central Surrey health, a separate NHS organisation but accountable to the PCT. It is a ‘not for profit organisation’ co-owned by its staff.

Nowadays half the admissions come from ‘acute’ hospitals, the rest come direct from home through their GP s or the Community Assessment Unit, which saves non-critical medical emergencies from having to attend the A&E unit of a major hospital. Patients referred by paramedics, district nurses or GP s are seen by a consultant, given blood tests, ECGs, X-rays and cardiac assessment, and treated, often within half an hour. Only 4% need to be admitted to either Leatherhead or Epsom hospital.

So much for the present. For the future we are entering uncharted waters because the future of Leatherhead hospital is dependent on what is happening around neighboring hospitals and services - in particular with Epsom General Hospital. As you know Epsom is linked with St Helier forming Epsom and St Helier University Trust, the complicating factor being that St Helier draws on the population from the London regions whereas Epsom is Surrey based. Currently £300 million is allocated to redevelop Epsom and St Helier, of which £80 million is going to Epsom, which may become a campus site hosting services including the ‘New‘ Epsom and Ewell Cottage Hospital. This must be good news for Epsom as it means that the hospital will not be downgraded as originally planned, one result being that the maternity unit, A&E, and paediatrics will remain. All of this impacts on Leatherhead Hospital, and it remains to be seen what services will be transferred to Leatherhead.

urrey PCT completed its commissioning plans in April, deciding where and on what to spend its budget to provide the services that you and I need. They have spent the last two years holding consultations with the public and service providers including GP s, consultants, social services, counsellors, and ambulance services to name but a few. 80% of the NHS budget goes to the PCT s. Under its charter the PCT has to consider all bids and tenders from providers however small and distant, government directives, access closer to home, fit for the future, equality of access, integrated care, NICE guidelines, fewer inpatient beds, reduction of doctors hours, Royal College guidelines, Epsom-St Helier link, and London review. Quite a task for the PCT!

Dr Meynen concluded by saying that with its over 100 year history of serving the community, he cares what happens to Leatherhead Hospital, and he hopes that everyone else does too.