The ‘Save Our St Helier’ petition has not been delayed to help his re-election campaign according to the Liberal Democrat candidate for Carshalton and Wallington.
Tom Brake was responding to claims by Conservative candidate Matthew Maxwell Scott, who said the refusal to hand in the petition was merely to gain residents’ contact details and to send them campaign materials.
However, Mr Brake questioned Mr Maxwell Scott’s knowledge of the timetable for the hospital trust’s decision on the future of St Helier’s A&E and maternity units.
Mr Brake said: “The critical announcements are likely to be at the end of this year or the beginning of next and that’s why I am continuing to collect petition signatures because the decision is many months off and it’s clearly going to get a lot of coverage.
“People are interested in the issue – they want to show their support for the hospital, they want to sign a petition and that is the sensible thing to continue to do.
“I want to, A, collect as large a petition as I can, and B, be able to communicate with the people who support the campaign to encourage them to do things as part of the campaign, that’s what a campaign is.”
The petition, currently signed by more than 21,400 people, has a target of 25,000 that it hopes to reach.
Concerns about the future of St Helier Hospital were again highlighted on Monday following information overheard by journalists talking of a potential 800-bed ‘super hospital’ in Sutton to replace the St Helier and Epsom hospitals.
Mr Maxwell Scott had previously set up a petition, designed to collect signatures to encourage Mr Brake to hand in his petition.
The Conservative candidate said: “It suits Tom Brake to constantly say it’s in peril.
“If I was elected MP I would make sure there were no more crises facing St Helier and it had a secure future.
“I wouldn’t see it as a campaigning tool – I’d see it as our local hospital, something that needs a guarantee of its long term vitality, not just something as a way to collect data.”
Both of Mr Brake’s children, 14 and 17, were born at St Helier and he insists he is committed to ensuring its future.
He criticised the other petition as being ‘irrelevant’ in helping the hospital.
He added: “Given the attempts there have been to close particularly the A&E and maternity at St Helier Hospital I’m very proud that we have been able to maintain that.”
Winner of every election in the constituency since 1997, Mr Brake was additionally backed by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg at a visit to the hospital on Monday.
Mr Clegg said: “Tom’s record in campaigning for St Helier’s Hospital, keeping it open, keeping the maternity ward open, keeping accident and emergency going is second to none.”
Image courtesy of Tom Brake via YouTube, with thanks