About seventy people attended a protest in Wimbledon today as Merton Clinical Commissioning Group waved through the closure of A&Es at St Helier and Epsom hospitals.
Activists from Sutton & Cheam and Merton Labour were joined by Kingston Green Party members, NHS supporters from Unite, CWU and GMB, health campaigners from Kingston and SW London Keep Our NHS Public, plus local MP, Siobhian McDonagh.
Inside the meeting, board members were grilled over their conflicts of interest. Dr Howard Freeman, CCG chair and, until recently, Director of the closures programme, was questioned over whether he had financial links to Assura/Virgin Health while he was overseeing the cuts review. When he said that he “didn’t know”, the audience exploded with shouts of “crook” and “coward”.
The united protest shows the way forward. We need to bring together local campaigns and organisations across South West London to fight the closures. Some politicans are already trying to play divide and rule, with Chris Grayling arguing that “London” is to blame for the closures at Epsom hospital, while Ed Davey has stated that the cuts mean extra cash for Kingston Hospital.
We need to take on these arguments and say that we need all our hospitals, and that any closure of an A&E will add pressure to the surviving emergency departments, with disastrous consequences.
SW London NHS is calling for a broad campaign to break the closures programme, and throw the proposals in the bin. Make sure you come to the open organising meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday 28th May at Collier’s Wood Community Centre.