This week, the KOSHH Party called out the SW London Collaborative Commissioning Group (SWLCCG)on letting slip some alarming information via Twitter and a link buried in their website.
It was generally thought that in June, there would be an announcement about plans for local hospitals, including St Helier Hospital. This followed on from the disastrously wasteful Better Service, Better Value (BSBV) programme in which the "preferred option" was for St Helier to lose A&E, maternity, renal and paediatric intensive care departments.
But via their Twitter account, SWLCCG revealed that in June they will release a "five-year strategy to set the standards and outcomes commissioners want to achieve" and that "details of how they achieve them will be the next step."
Dr Tiz North, KOSHH Party candidate for Sutton South challenges SWLCCG, saying that these tweets raise more questions than they answer.
She asks SWLCCG: "Is this a case of BSBV in a new guise? Will the CCGs come up with the same strategy via slightly different means, such as applying the unrealistic London Quality Standards?".
In short, St Helier Hospital is not safe. It may seem on the surface that this sort of delay and obfuscation by the SWLCCG is helpful. After all, it delays any definite announcements about closing vital services and no Coalition MP wants to go into the 2015 General Election with the threat of a massive hospital closure hanging over their heads.
But it's not that simple. There have already been cuts to services at St Helier - there is just one paediatric ward with others moved to Epsom General Hospital and Ferguson House, which was to be the winner with the now-abandoned £219m refurbishment is a shell of its former self. Add to this creeping privatisation at St Helier, such as G4S winning a £3.5m contract for driving the hospital's non-emergency ambulances, despite one of their ambulances being involved in a patient losing his life, and it is clear to see we have a death by 1,000 cuts on our hands before any major cuts even happen or are announced.
As Dr Tiz North said, "unrealistic" standards could be applied to St Helier Hospital in the future which could potentially be used to justify a downgrading or, worse still, result in a closure under Clause 119 which gives the Health Secretary the power to close hospitals within 40 days.
This may seem like a rather lofty Westminster-level issue for a local election campaign but we need grassroots activism and action from concerned residents and from Merton and Sutton councillors from all the major parties. We call on Conservative and Liberal-Democrat candidates to challenge their colleagues in the House of Commons who voted for Clause 119 and to point out to them how it could potentially threaten hospitals across England, including St Helier Hospital.
Many thanks to Radio Jackie for breaking the news. Click here to read the story.
Photography by Paul McMillan