CLOSING vital services at Croydon University Hospital is the "least preferred" option among the latest proposals put forward by a review of local healthcare.
A new report into services in south-west London includes the potential for Croydon to be downgraded from a major to a local hospital, losing its A&E, maternity and children's units.
However, two of the three options being considered by the controversial Better Services, Better Value (BSBV) review include Croydon retaining these departments.
The favoured option is for Croydon to remain as a major acute hospital, alongside St George's and Kingston, in which case Epsom and St Helier hospitals will lose out.
John Goulston, chief executive of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust – which runs the hospital – welcomed the announcement.
He said: "It is extremely good news for Croydon that the hospital is included in two options as a major site, with A&E, children and maternity services.
"By keeping Croydon's major acute hospital, more patients will receive treatment at the places where they are currently seen, while getting a more consistent standard of care."
The three options are the latest proposals from a stuttering healthcare review that was first launched in 2011.
Under the previous plans only St Helier, in Carshalton, would have lost its A&E, maternity and children's services, which would have been centralised and expanded at three other hospitals in the region, including Croydon.
However, the review ground to a halt in November last year following the collapse of a hospital merger in Surrey, which raised questions of the clinical and financial evidence it was based on.
This meant Epsom also had to be included in the review.
BSBV's new preferred option would mean St George's, in Tooting, remaining a major acute teaching hospital, with an A&E, maternity and specialist children's unit and ward.
Two major acute hospitals, at Kingston and Croydon, would provide emergency and urgent care, as well as maternity services, an attached midwife-led unit and children's inpatient wards.
Epsom would become a local hospital with a planned care centre, and St Helier would retain local services only.
It is estimated that restricting services in this way would save £40 million, and mean 82 per cent of patients will continue to attend the same hospitals they do now.
The alternative option is identical to the first but would mean the planned care centre is at St Helier instead of Epsom.
Only the least preferred choice would see Croydon downgraded instead of St Helier, saving more money in the long term.
More than 100 doctors, nurses, health professionals and patients were involved in drawing up the proposals.
A 12 to 14-week public consultation is due to start in the summer.
This will include 14 public events, two in each borough, and a roadshow at supermarkets and railway stations.
Croydon University Hospital treated 120,000 patients in its A&E department last year.
Steve Reed's View from Westminster – page 22.