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Mar 1st, 2014

38 Degrees members in Sutton meet Paul Burstow MP

By 38 Degrees team

About forty-five 38 Degrees members met in Sutton central library on Saturday to talk to local MP Paul Burstow about the hospital closure clause. Here’s a quick report back.

We met at 11am, and had a wide ranging discussion of the issues between ourselves prior to meeting Paul Burstow MP  at 12noon. Key figures in the local campaign to protect St Helier’s hospital explained how the local campaign and the hospital closure clause related to each other. Everyone agreed that it was an important part of the fight to keep St Helier’s safe to ensure that the Secretary of State didn’t get extended, unaccountable powers to close hospitals.

Once Paul Burstow was ready to see us, 15 of us joined him for a round table discussion of the issues. We thanked him for making the time to meet us at short notice, and explained why we felt it was important that he did all he could to stop the hospital closure clause going through. Lots of those present spoke of their experience as patients, doctors or nurses at St Heliers. A couple of the delegation we expecting babies and were able to illustrate very clearly the importance of having a decent maternity unit in the area.

38 Degrees members with Paul Burstow

Paul Burstow seemed keen to be seen to listen to us. He said that he thought there were problems with the hospital closure clause as well, and that he had already suggested some changes when the Bill was discussed in Committee Stage.

We explained that 38 Degrees lawyers were working on an amendment to the clause, which would be ready on Monday. We asked Paul that he would consider supporting that amendment. He said he would consider it, but that he’d like to see at first – which is fair enough! We asked him if he agreed with the principles which that amendment sought to address:

  • Closures or changes to NHS services should be driven by clinical need over financial considerations
  • Local people should have a real say in decisions which affect their local NHS
  • Local GPs must approve the changes
  • Other local clinicians including hospital doctors must have a real say
  • Local elected officials must be involved

Paul Burstow said he did agree with these principles, but that he’d want to see how the amendment dealt with them in practice.

He then had to dash to his next appointment, and the 15 of us rejoined the rest of the group to report back and discuss what he’d said. The overall feeling was that the meeting had gone quite well, though without the amendment it had been impossible to pin him down to anything that concrete. Views differed as to how sincere  Paul Burstow was in saying he wanted to do all he can – some felt that he was personally convinced of the importance of what we were saying, others felt that he needed to try to keep us happy because there was an election coming up.

Either way, he could not have failed to be impressed by the numbers of people who had turned up at short notice, and the power of our arguments. The most important thing will be to get back to him with the amendments as soon as they are ready, and make sure we do all we can to persuade him to support them. This will all have to happen in a hurry as the government have now announced that the vote will be on March 10 and that therefore the deadline for submitting amendments will be Tuesday March 4.

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