Fury Over Wimbledon MP's Backing Of Care Bill

Stephen Hammond says he still backs St Helier Hospital

A motion attacking Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond for putting the future of St Helier Hospital at risk will be debated by Merton Council next month.

Mr Hammond has recently voted in favour of Clause 119 of the Care Bill which allows the Secretary of State, as the person who makes the final decision on hospital closures, to bypass local opposition to a hospital closure even if the hospital is performing well. 

Now local Labour councillors will put forward a motion stating that they are "appalled" at the behaviour of the Conservative MP for Wimbledon. It will be debated at the next full council meeting, on April 2.

But Mr Hammond said he was "saddened" by their motion to the council and he has consistently opposed the closure of St Helier Hospital. He is asking Council Leader Stephen Alambritis to withdraw the motion.

He said: "I am saddened the Labour Party has tabled this motion and now broken the cross party consensus on St Helier Hospital. Anyone who has followed local politics will know I oppose the closure of St Helier and have consistently done so ever since I entered local politics, which is well before Councillor Alambritis was ever a councillor. 

"Clause 119 has nothing to do with the closure of St Helier. It is all about the quality of patient care and allows the Secretary of State to appoint a special administrator in exceptional circumstances. As the care is widely recognised as excellent at St Helier, the clause is not relevant to this local health unit. Moreover it is equally irrelevant as it cannot be used in current circumstances where local clinicians are deciding. 

"I am disappointed that Councillor Alambritis has brought forward this unnecessary motion as I thought he was a mature local politician. However his cheap party politicking over such an important issue and his fake anger will make local people question if he is really fit to be Leader of the Council. I will write to him inviting him to withdraw this misleading motion as I suspect it is really the product of some immature hotheads in the Labour group. 

"Of course the good news is that with BSBV finished, St Helier is not under any threat in the near future. I am glad that I, along with Merton Conservatives, played our part in securing that outcome for local people. However we must remain vigilant and that is why I met with Dr Howard Freeman this weekend and he has assured me that there is no threat to St Helier or its services."

He was responding to a statement from Merton Labour Group which stated that Mr Hammond voted through new powers which, if another local hospital was in financial difficulty, could allow St Helier to be downgraded or closed.

It pointed out that only recently the sign heralding the promised £219m redevelopment of the hospital was taken down, raising concerns that proposals to downgrade the hospital are still on the table. 

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: "Stephen Hammond has betrayed St Helier Hospital and he has betrayed local people. He and his Conservative colleagues should be ashamed of themselves for putting our hospital at risk like this."

March 21, 2014