Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaign slams Carshalton and Wallington candidates over emergency services

By Harry Jones
December 6 2019, 21.25

The ‘Keep Our St Helier Hospital’ campaign has slammed the two leading Carshalton and Wallington candidates for misleading the public regarding the future of its emergency services.

The dilapidated, 80-year-old hospital is forever a talking point come election time.

The two main contenders for the Carshalton seat, Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, who has held the seat since 1997, and Conservative Elliot Colburn, have similar messages: they’re both fighting to save it.

Mr Brake describes his work on the hospital over the years as ‘some of his proudest,’ while Mr Colburn wants to stop using the site for ‘political football’.

For the first time in decades, decisive action on the hospital appears to be imminent in the form of hospital renovations and new acute facilities being built nearby.

According to the Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaign (KOSHH), the proposals are being used by both candidates as a smokescreen to rid St Helier and Epsom Hospital of their acute services, including A&E and maternity care, replacing them with a single facility.

KOSHH’s Sandra Ash said: “People are bombarded with party literature and none of it is true. Some people don’t see it because both parties are feeding them half-truths or lies about shiny new facilities.”

The hospital, a cluster of white towers and gaping windows, has an illusion of grandeur from the exterior.

But tales from the inside paint a different picture – some walls have water leaking through and onto the beds, others have plaster falling off them and the lifts can’t fit bed-bound patients.

Although KOSHH concede that the hospital needs major renovations, they believe it is being cut loose for financial purposes at the expense of those in need of urgent care.

They emphasise that their loyalties lie not with the tradition of the building, but with saving lives.

Ms Ash argues that the new acute facility, only accessible by ambulance with further distances for most to travel and fewer available consultants, will put lives at risk.

It isn’t expected to be available until 2025, while the removal of acute services at St Helier could happen as early as next year.

Ms Ash said: “They’re turning it into a skeleton service and people are swallowing the spin. It’s a demolition job not a hospital improvement programme.”

Unlike Labour and Brexit party candidates, neither Mr Brake nor Mr Colburn agreed to sign KOSHH’s pledge to save the hospital at the beginning of the campaign.

They hold Mr Brake responsible for his part in the coalition government that planned to reduce acute hospitals nationwide and for letters he sent to Jeremy Hunt then Matt Hancock, recommending the removal of St Helier’s facilities.

When asked which candidate she’d rather, Ms Ash said: “They’d be as bad as each other.”

Mr Brake disagreed: “The success I’ve had at maintaining St Helier is something I cherish. I’m now pushing for the investment of £400-500million to make improvements available and to rebuild on the St Helier site.”

His opponent, Mr Colburn, has an attitude aligned with the current prime minister and his party leader.

An ex-NHS employee, he claims that St Helier will be one of the hospitals receiving investment as part of the Conservative manifesto, but didn’t specify whether renovations would include stripping the hospital of its emergency services.

He said: “Just like Brexit, it’s time to get St Helier done. It’s not even an election promise, the tap has already opened.

“St Helier has always been a massive issue. I could pull out leaflets from the last seven to ten general elections and it’s always a major issue.

“The difference this time is we finally have a plan which keeps all the services in the local area and doesn’t involve moving any to Croydon, St George’s or further afield.”

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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