Guest article

Video: Labour candidate Bonnie Craven exposes Tory claims about new hospitals as cover for more cuts

Sutton and Cheam Labour candidate Bonnie Craven dismantles Tory hospital claims by showing how the supposed ‘new hospital’ in her borough is actually downgrade

As a life-long campaigner for the NHS and a long-term activist to protect our services at St Helier Hospital, I am proud to be standing in Sutton and Cheam for the Labour Party.

Over the last decade, attempts to withdraw essential services from St Helier and Epsom Hospitals as well as Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children have accelerated.

Following the passing of the pernicious Health and Social Care Act 2012 (co-authored by our previous Lib Dem MP, Paul Burstow, whilst his party was in coalition with the Conservatives) there has been a distinct plan to remove A&E, maternity, paediatrics, intensive care, emergency medicine and surgery, coronary, and cancer care, from our two major acute general hospitals; in favour of an expensive, but inadequate acute only “facility” within the walls of a specialised cancer hospital that already prioritises private patients.

St Helier Hospital was built to serve what was, at the time, the largest council estate in Europe and still sits in the part of the borough with the highest levels of deprivation. It is very highly regarded, fully utilised and achieves fantastic outcomes. The local Tory and Lib Dem politicians endorse a proposal to remove this vital service from where it is really needed, in favour of an inadequate alternative in the wealthiest part of the borough.

There is simply no new hospital on offer in Sutton and Cheam:

There is a plan to downgrade and potentially close two fully acute general hospitals and a children’s hospital, possibly as soon as 2020. In 2026 The Conservatives claim that they hope to build a small facility with hundreds fewer beds than we already have and far fewer consultants, inside an existing hospital – which just happens to be in the most affluent part of our borough.

In the intervening 6 years we will have to attend a hospital that could take well over an hour to get to through busy London traffic – far from ideal in an emergency situation. Longer journey times have proved to cause more deaths and harm.

Hospitals in South West London frequently have to close their doors to A&E and maternity, due to understaffing, and growing pressures. There is no excess capacity. NHS performance figures are currently the worst in history and it’s not even winter. A plan to reduce provision in this borough, in Epsom or anywhere else, will lead to completely avoidable deaths. These downgrade and closure plans have been going on for years – and are set to continue across the whole of England.

If the new facility scheme is pursued, people would only be able to attend if delivered by ambulance. Waits for ambulances up and down the country are horrendous and this policy will again lead to undue delay and avoidable deaths. The only other option for admission to the proposed unit is referral from a GP. Anyone who has tried to get a GP appointment locally will also be aware that thanks to the merging of surgeries, a 3 week wait for an appointment is not unusual.

Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam, told us during hustings that this project would be funded through a “PF2” scheme. There can be no doubt that these are toxic and hugely damaging funding methods. Existing PFI debt is another issue that the incoming Labour Government will address.

The Tories cannot be trusted with the NHS. Paul Scully openly contradicts himself in the space of a sentence, as he did on TV. He simply cannot be trusted with our local or our National Health Service.

I have openly and actively campaigned for the future of St Helier and Epsom Hospitals, and have been proud to contribute to Labour’s Health policies for our fantastic, transformative manifesto. In 2019 we are offering the most transformative policies since 1945. I am the only candidate in Sutton and Cheam that will fight for the future of our NHS.

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