March 2014

Dear friend,
 
Will you join me to hand in the petition to Save St Helier?
 
Hello again, and this month there is really just one thing to talk about, isn’t there?
 
There has been some major news about the future of St Helier, some good, some bad, which I’ll go into in a moment.
 
So what better time to hand in the community’s petition to Save St Helier?
 
I’ve arranged to present the petition to the Chair and Chief Executive of Merton CCG (the local branch of the NHS).
 
If you want to join me, I’ll be handing the petition in at 9am next Thursday, 27 March. The presentation will take place at the headquarters of Merton CCG, 120 The Broadway, Wimbledon SW19 1RH.
 
The petition has been signed by thousands of local people, and the more who can join me next Thursday, the better.
 
The threat to St Helier is still very real, and we need to show those in charge that the people of Mitcham and Morden are still extremely anxious.
 
Good and bad news for St Helier
So much has happened over the past month or so, so let’s start with the good news.
 
Thanks to a really strong community campaign, the local NHS has backed away from the threat to shut St Helier’s A&E, maternity, ICU, children’s and renal units, as well as 390 in-patient beds. Better still, the body behind the proposals has been closed down.
 
However, the plan is not off the table permanently. I’ve seen a letter from NHS England complaining that the decision not to shut St Helier “carries unacceptable risks to your ability to develop and deliver a strategic plan”, and that as a result local hospitals “will be unable to become Foundation Trusts.” This is particularly worrying, because if St Helier doesn’t get Foundation Trust status, it will have to close services.
 
The letter goes on to say that “This could be interpreted as commissioners planning for clinical and financial failure in some of its providers.” Again, that looks like an admission that the NHS expects hospitals like St Helier to fail – another back door way to ensure it closes services.
 
So we need to keep up the fight!
 
And here’s why.
 
Last month I uncovered the truth about the £219m promised to St Helier four years ago by the last Government. This money was going to lead to the hospital being rebuilt and modernised.
 
But then I found out the £219m wouldn’t be spent. The Chief Executive of the local NHS told me "the re-development does not feature as one of the Long-Term Financial Modelling scenarios being worked up."
 
A fortnight ago, the banner outside St Helier saying “Coming Soon – We’re spending £219m on a major development of St Helier hospital” was taken down.
 
Even more worryingly, earlier this week the Government passed a new law in Parliament allowing them to close a hospital even if the local community, including local doctors, wants to keep it open.
 
Sadly, local Conservative MP Stephen Hammond, and local Liberal Democrat MPs Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, voted for the new law, which is known as Clause 119. I voted against.
 
All of this means that although we’ve made great progress, it’s clear this isn’t over!
 
So please do try to join me on Thursday – and join me for a coffee afterwards. It would be good to show that we are not going to give up the fight now – I’m not going to rest until it’s clear that the future of St Helier is secure for future generations.
 
And on that note, if you want to add your name to the petition – or want to contact me about anything else at all – please do email me at siobhain@mmlp.org.uk.
 
I’ll be back with more next month!
 
My best wishes,