Kingston Keep Our NHS Public kicked off the fight against the closure of vital services at St Helier and Epsom hospitals last week.
Some twenty activists got together at a few days notice to demonstrate outside Kingston Clinical Commissioning Group, which was set to wave through proposals to close A&E, maternity and paediatrics at Epsom and St Helier. Kingston-based campaigners believe that the closures will inundate Kingston hospital with new patients and destroy the quality of service.
Despite over 60 emails being sent to the CCG calling for the meeting, which was scheduled for just three days after the closures programme was announced, to be postponed, including from local medical professionals and a London Assembly member, the board unanimously approved the closures.
Better Service Better Value, the authors of the closures programme, are pushing the lie that the slashing of services is about “reshaping” of the local health service and is clinically the right thing to do. Local MP Ed Davey is even claiming that Kingston Hospital will now get extra cash to deal with the increase in foot-fall. But the closures are really about cuts – central government has cut the NHS budget by £21 billion, which means a 24% cuts to the local hospitals budget. Services at Epsom and St Helier will be lost, and there will be no new money for other hospitals – just further cuts and redundancy programmes.
But resistance is building across SW London. Nearly 200 people crammed into a room in North Cheam on Thursday to watch the Sutton CCG meeting, in which one member of the board broke ranks and voted against the proposals. And further CCG meetings are still to come in Merton and Epsom, with massive public pressure emerging which could break the back of the review if just one CCG votes against it. The RCN and doctors at Epsom Hospital have both made public statements against the closures, while local campaigners are mobilising for a massive turnout at the CCG meeting there.
We need to fight hard to get one of the CCGs to reject the closures, and put Better Services Better Value in the bin, where it belongs. But we also need to begin to pull together the different campaigns around SW London and begin to organise for if and when the proposals go to public consultation. We need to build a movement across SW London that can break the closures.