Hospital rumour starts election campaign

Health Overview Panel  27th January 2010

The meeting proceedings began with a question from the floor by Cllr Geoff Austin (Con) politely seeking clarification of the position on Maternity and A&E services at Kingston Hospital.

The Chair, Cllr Don Jordan (Lib Dem), said Cllr Mary Reid (Lib Dem) had some information and she proceeded to tell the panel that the MPs had previously had meetings with various officials and hospital CEOs (including the CEO of Kingston) about this question and had become incensed when they learnt last weekend that the report on the future, which might recommend closure of these services, was being shelved until after the election. They wanted to bring things out into the open as they ‘thought people had a right to know’. All very noble and not a hint of partisan advantage, of course. Cllr David Cunningham (Con), from the gallery, intervened to say that Cllr Mary Reid’s account didn’t tally with what the Hospital CEO  had told the Trust Board that morning in particular the fact about her having known about the possibility of closures. The Chairman had criticised the MPs’ campaign as well. The CEO wasn’t at the meeting so could not comment, but Cllr Cunningham pointed out that   the Panel clerk, had been there and had taken copious notes and could verify whether the account of the Board meeting Cllr Cunningham had given was true or not. Discussion ensued between Cllr Jordan, Reid and the clerk. The upshot of which was that Cllr Jordan refused to allow the clerk to speak on the issue as ‘it would involve him in what was obviously a burning party issue’. Cllr Jordan made his first attempt to close the discussion down.

I (Con) stepped in at this point to say that possible closure of key hospital services was not a party issue between us, but a community issue and that the matter affected other concerns on the agenda. He pointed out that constituents were contacting him and others in alarm at the story and that Ed Davey (MP, Lib Dem)  had sent emails to all and sundry seeking their support for his petition. I knew this as constituents had already sent copies to me. I asked, if the MPs were sure of their ground and genuinely seeking public support, why had he not sent the email to me? My email address was well known.

Cllr Jordan then tried to close down the subject a second time and Cllr Reid suggested the panel may hold an extra meeting with the MPs in private to discuss the issues concerned. I agreed to the extra meeting but insisted that it be held in public as the present one was being held. This suggestion met with much approval from the gallery, especially persons associated with Kingston’s LINk, who nodded furiously.

The background material to the letter from NHS SW London, passed on to Councillors by the Head of Democratic Services the following morning, was distributed to members, but not the covering letter itself, which blows the MPs out of the water. At least I did not receive one. Readers can see this on the Health and Hospitals page of

The meeting then went on to discuss Maternity Services at Kingston Hospital and, later, Primary Care plans for RBK, which featured the A&E services at KH as an important part of the poly-system structure for north Kingston.

Incidentally, we have since learnt that the website to which the MPs invited constituents to refer was registered by one of them as long ago as 11th December


About pauljohnston

Elected as Conservative councillor in Surbiton Hill, Kingston upon Thames in 1998. Re-elected 2002 and 2006. Former parliamentary candidate in Lancashire and Birmingham. Ceased to be a Councillor (temporarily?) in 2010. Active among Residents' Associations in Surbiton Hill and among residents in social housing generally. Former teacher of History at St. Brendan's College Bristol and Head of History and Politics at the London Oratory School. Worked with Sutton Trust running summer schools for sixth formers at Oxford University from 1997-2000 aiming to improve uptake of places from pupils from state schools which sent very few applicants to Oxbridge.
This entry was posted in Elections, Health and Community, Lib Dems, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hospital rumour starts election campaign

  1. evoworkshop says:

    I suggest you look at the latest material on, which has clear evidence that this is not just a rumour but that the proposals have been talked about, and were known by the key players, since last June.

  2. pauljohnston says:

    Isn’t this the website established by Susan Kramer MP two months ago?

    I have attended several stakeholder meetings since last summer, some of them chaired by Edward Davey, at which no such ‘proposals’ were so much as mentioned. Further I refer you to the letter from NHS SW London, printed in full on This suggests that, to say the least, your use of the word ‘proposals’ is a little strong, even misleading. It would be true to say, however, that some did question whether the polysystem proposal for Surbiton Hospital site might have an impact on Kingston Hospital. However Mr. Davey did not pose this question. So who are the key players you have in mind?

    As you see from my account of the meeting, the Health Overview Panel discussed the future of maternity services at Kingston with many of the ‘key players’ in that service present and participating. And the CEO of NHS Kingston outlined the role A&E would play as the hub of a north Kingston equivalent to the Surbiton Hospital polysystem in south Kingston. Does David Smith count as a ‘kkey player’?

  3. evoworkshop says:

    If you look at the Background page on you will see that the MPs were initially briefed that the report containing the options would be published in December. The domain was registered then in anticipation. In the event, the report was postponed to January, then until after the election.

    The whole approach of NHS SW London was to keep the proposals secret until the report was published. The MPs agreed to this initially, but did warn the various Chief Execs that they would go public if there was a coverup.

    You are aware of exactly who is being invited to the special meeting of HOP – that should give you some clue.

    The Conservatives can continue to be sceptical if they wish, but they are in danger of missing the boat on this one. It would be so much better if we combined our efforts on this campaign.

    By the way, Edward Davey did not send emails to “all and sundry” but only to those who had signed up for his email newsletter. You can sign up if you wish on

  4. pauljohnston says:

    If Mr. Davey or Ms. Kramer wanted our support they should have asked for it, which they didn’t. Instead they put out a leaflet at certain railway stations which contained on the reverse side a puerile attack on David Cameron, replete with the usual quotes out of context and bits carefully cut from newspapers designed, one supposes, to give the impression that, somehow, the Tories were going to close the hospital services. We also have the evidence from the Daily Mirror correspondent of Mr. Falchikov boasting that the whole thing had been cooked up on his kitchen table.
    All this creates an atmosphere of scepticism as to the altruism of the Lib Dems and is, at best, a strange way to go about looking for cross-party support.
    The letter from NHS SW London is quite explicit on the issue, so is the statement from Kate Grimes, specifically on the issue of the ‘cover-up’. I confess to being somewhat amazed that the letter from NHS SW London has not been published in full by any of our local papers. Who’s covering up what and why?
    You have my assurance, given at HOP, and the written assurances of Helen Whately and Zac Goldsmith that any attempt to close these services will be fiercely resisted by us.
    Finally it is disingenuous of you to suggest that Mr. Davey needs my email address. He knows it fine well and has used it many times. If he wanted my support on a matter in which he was in the position of knowing something I didn’t know, he could have done what I usually do in such circumstances – and asked for it.

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