I am delighted to write and tell you that local NHS leaders have confirmed plans for a new hospital to be built in Sutton and to upgrade facilities at St Helier. This represents a £500 MILLION plan that will not only build a brand new state of the art hospital near to the Royal Marsden by 2025, but ALSO invest AT LEAST £80 MILLION into upgrades at St Helier.
The new specialist emergency care hospital, just a few minutes from St Helier, would treat the sickest 15% of patients, those normally arriving by ambulance. This larger specialist team would be available 24 hours a day to diagnose what is wrong with patients more rapidly, start the best treatment faster, and help patients recover more quickly. St Helier and Epsom Hospitals will remain open 24/7, with updated and improved facilities, providing all the other services that they currently do.
My children were born at St. Helier so healthcare provision in Sutton has been an issue that is a very personal one to me. Ever since being a councillor in Carshalton, some 14 years ago, I have been campaigning for a solution that protects the future of St. Helier whilst ensuring that Sutton residents have access to the very best treatment in cutting edge modern healthcare facilities. I believe that this decision can finally put to rest the political arguments so that we can get on with doing what’s best for residents across the whole of the borough of Sutton.
With this plan, the refurbished St Helier Hospital is here to stay providing the majority of local health services, and the sickest patients will get state-of-the-art treatment in the brand-new specialist emergency hospital right here in our area.
You can find out more about the plans, including the answers to some frequently asked questions at the NHS’ website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk. You can also contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get in touch with me with any queries.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THESE PROPOSALS
Why is this being done?
To improve the care that we receive. As St Helier’s buildings continue to age over time, it’s necessary to upgrade our healthcare facilities to improve outcomes. Surviving illness and recovering quickly is the number one priority.
Is St Helier closing?
No, quite the opposite. St Helier is here to stay with a multi-million-pound improvement package.
Is a new hospital being built?
Yes. A new specialist emergency care hospital will be built in Sutton, in addition to improving St Helier hospital.
Is St Helier getting an upgrade?
Yes. At least £80 million of the funding promised will go towards improving the facilities at St Helier hospital.
Who developed these proposals?
For the first time, we have a plan that was developed by local clinicians, not national bureaucrats or politicians. Local healthcare professionals made the case for funding to deliver this improvement, which has been rewarded with a £500 million investment. Sutton Council also supported the proposals last year.
Will I have to travel outside my area for services now?
At the moment, if you have a stroke or heart attack you will be taken past St. Helier to be treated at St. George’s. This plan means that we will still be able to treat people within the local area, not moving more services away from Sutton.
Will we still use St Helier?
Yes. From 2025, Epsom hospital, St Helier hospital and the new hospital at Sutton will all have a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) (which already treats the vast majority of people going to St. Helier in an emergency). Under the plans, 85% of services will remain at St Helier. Both Epsom and St Helier hospitals will still have a 24/7 UTC.
Diagnostic tests, such as MRI, x-ray or ultrasound, the heart problem diagnosis unit, the dialysis unit, Croft Ward (which takes care of patients who are stable but not ready to leave hospital), the eye care unit, the gastroenterology unit, and so many more services are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals.
What about bed numbers?
The NHS have calculated that they will need the same number of beds as they do now.
What about A&E?
Unlike previous plans, which saw A&E diverted away into Tooting, A&E is now staying right here in our Borough at the new hospital. Most of the time you will still use St Helier for matters requiring immediate medical attention like broken limbs or cuts. Major trauma cases needing a blue light ambulance transfer will be treated in Sutton at the new state-of-the-art hospital next to The Royal Marsden.
What about maternity services?
Maternity services have also been protected and kept locally. Post-natal and ante-natal care are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and births will take place in the brand-new maternity unit at the new hospital in Sutton built to the very latest healthcare standards. Women need the very best care and facilities when giving birth, and the new plans will provide that.
Where will children services be provided?
Most children will continue to receive care and treatment in the same place as they do now. Care for children who need to stay in hospital overnight – as a result of a serious illness or complex problems – will be treated at the new specialist emergency care hospital. This includes children’s surgery.
What will happen until the new hospital in Sutton is built?
All services will continue to be carried out at Epsom and St Helier hospitals until such time the new hospital in Sutton is ready for patients.
Where will the new hospital be built?
After consulting residents, patient groups and healthcare professionals, the decision was taken to build a brand-new specialist emergency care hospital in Sutton. This will be combined with the necessary infrastructure and transport links to ensure the site of the new hospital is accessible to all that need to use it.
For more facts, and to find out what this multi-million-pound government investment in our local NHS will mean for you and your family, visit the following website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk/faq.
I am only too aware of the sacrifices people have made over the last few weeks. My mother died just before lockdown and one of my sisters had to think long and hard about whether she would be safe coming to say her goodbyes, being in her seventies with an underlying health conditions. I’ve lost two uncles during lockdown, neither of whom I could visit before but fortunately one of whom I could join the limited numbers of close family to pay my respects. I am dearly looking forward to the time when we can gather together as a family to celebrate the lives of these three extraordinary people who touched so many across the world over the best part of the last century. Of course we hear stories on a regular basis way more traumatic than my personal grief.
But on the whole people across the UK have stuck to the core message of staying home to protect the NHS and save lives. Although this is the core message, clearly it isn’t the complete message which included people being able to travel to work if their business wasn’t required to work and they could not work from home. It doesn’t cover the guidelines which included such variations as children who lived across two homes in shared custody and it certainly doesn’t cover the endless possibilities that no set of reasonable guidelines could cover at all, let alone in absolute detail. That is one of the reasons that as we look to move to the next stage, the prescriptive sounding ‘Stay at Home, Save Lives,’ has been replaced with a common-sense catch-all of ‘Stay Alert, Save Lives’, giving implicit permission for people to use their own judgement which has largely been the case to date anyway. The initial reason for limiting social contact, of protecting the most vulnerable, has been lost as younger, fit and healthy people fear that they may themselves die from Covid-19, something that remains statistically hugely unlikely.
Dominic Cummings, one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisers, has dominated the news and social media after month-old reports of him travelling up to County Durham were finally published by newspapers. Rather than jump in based on conjecture, I prefer to establish a reasonable take on the facts available and so watched his own account of what happened when he and his wife suspected that they were both falling ill with coronavirus. I’ve met him on just one occasion so don’t have any detailed knowledge of the man but I’ve never bought into the mythological Svengali/Macchiaveli status that the press and his opposition have built up around him. I watched the statement live, I watched the questions that followed from the press live. He laid out his reasons for his actions in some detail and showed an approach that was, like any parent of a child under the age of five, very much ‘in the moment’ and driven by the cards he had in his hands in a rapidly changing and multi layered situation. I had no doubt, watching the statement and subsequent questioning live, that all the choices taken were for the good of his child whilst remaining constantly mindful of the need to keep within government guidance.
Firstly, it was a shame that this information wasn’t released earlier. I regret the fact that news has been diminished to minute-by-minute reaction which does not allow for meaningful consideration before long-lasting judgements have been cemented, but that’s the world we are living in now. Secondly whilst we were going through the long days of Brexit, political differences meant that anyone within a mile of Westminster could trip over an argument and write a column about it. Since then, political journalists have had to work harder to get an ‘interesting story’, something that doesn’t necessarily correlate with importance for viewers who are getting on with their lives. This has been illustrated by the fact that it took some time for all media outlets to recognise that the Covid 19 emergency is not a political crisis as Brexit was – it was not a political choice of the government to be affected by Covid therefore it seems to me that when the Secretary of State for Health for example is being questioned surely the most qualified would be departmental specific correspondents ie the health correspondents rather than the political editor? The post-press conference commentary came after a number of journalists spent nearly an hour questioning him directly and then with hindsight compiled a new set of questions, whereas Dominic Cummings made his decisions in real-time; balancing his family’s need, his interpretation of the guidelines and his important work for the country.
Notwithstanding this there were a number of points in the reports and Dominic Cummings’ own account that deserved questions from the Prime Minister and the politically-focused media. Based on what I heard throughout the whole press conference, I believe that he answered the central point that he acted within the guidance allowing for his family’s exceptional circumstances. Some people may disagree with some of his judgement calls, but I believe that he made them in good faith based on his understanding of the guidance, in the best interest of his family and his position within the heart of government at a particularly crucial time without setting himself ahead of others. With that in mind, I’d rather him and others in government. be able to concentrate on the job at hand as we enter a particularly difficult phase of the crisis. I’ve been heavily involved in the return to work as we lift restrictions. The government’s first priority has always been to save lives, but protecting livelihoods and businesses is crucial if we are able to go through the gears economically and bounce back when the scientific advice allows.
I can understand the frustration from some. Yes, there are political scores being settled, with the left trying to take a scalp and some of the Brexit leavers still sore that Dominic Cummings has been critical of them, but most people with no political axe to grind, have seen the headlines and some of the coverage and many are understandably angry. Based on Dominic Cummings’ account of himself, I believe that we are now at the time to move on to the things that will affect people way after he is a footnote in political memoirs. His approach to government gives us a chance to build an approach that is often pushed by those sick of the normal state of affairs.
Raking over every minor detail won’t save a life, protect a job, or improve a single child’s education. Drilling into the detail of the bladder capacity of his child is just not a world I want to be part of. We don’t live in a police state which is why the Prime Minister thought long and hard about how and when we started to restrict freedoms. We are coming to the point when we can gradually look into the light and slowly start to enjoy those freedoms and release the pause button on our lives. But to do that effectively we need to continue to work together. There is no different set of rules for those in power. There is however a different spotlight, a huge cost on family life and a relentless daily pressure. I would love to be able to see my children after 63 days. I want others to be with their loved ones but just concentrating on one polarising individual won’t bring that moment any closer.
Yesterday John Cleese tweeted from his home in the Caribbean that London was not really an English city any more.
London is the greatest city in the world for a number of reasons. I moved to our capital city for the opportunities and lifestyle that only London can provide. I moved from another UK town but London attracts people from around the world who add so much to our economy, our culture and our communities.
John Cleese may believe that London is no longer an English city but how do we define English? It may not be the first choice of a location scout for Midsomer Murders but was London ever like that? The English borrow and adapt from around the world mainly on the back of being a maritime trading island. It is true that London plays in a global league, competing against the likes of New York, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, much like Liverpool and Tottenham will be vying to be Champions of Europe which will trump Manchester City’s Premiership title. But that doesn’t make London any less connected with the rest of the UK.
Britishness can now be defined by our shared values; tolerance, respect, pragmatism and resourcefulness especially in difficult times. Londoners don’t worry about whether their neighbours have three generations behind them living within the neighbourhood before accepting them. Instead we welcome newcomers, recognising how change helps us to keep up to date and fresh, just like any sensible business, club or family.
This does not mean that we should not have a robust immigration policy. The failure to even allow reasonable debate about immigration under the last Labour government, stirred up concern and unrest, some of which fed into the Brexit debate. We need a fairer immigration system which attracts people with the skills we need, no matter where they are from.
Entrepreneurs and skilled workers should be able to contribute to the UK and make the most of opportunities whether they are from India, America or France.
Ending Freedom of Movement as we leave the EU will allow us to strike the right balance but in doing so we should not allow commentators to conflate this with rhetoric that just perpetuates division. People are rightly concerned about how our hospitals and schools will cope with an increasing population but they are also worried about how they will be staffed. We need to concentrate on getting the balance right in a positive, constructive debate rather than alienating people whose first language may not be English, whose skin colour may be different or whose faith may not be Church of England.
That’s the tolerance and pragmatism that makes me English, some 67 years after my Catholic Burmese father with an Irish surname disembarked at Southampton docks to start a new life away from military dictatorship, in England, the country that he had admired from afar.
As the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei I was concerned to read about the next level of the Sharia Penal Code that has been recently introduced in Brunei. I visited the country last November meeting the Sultan and a number of ministers and key advisers to discuss existing and developing trading links that date back for many years. The recent additions to the Penal Code had not come into force at that point.
Both Jeremy Hunt as Foreign Secretary and Penny Mordaunt as Secretary of State for Women & Equalities have taken a strong line on this matter with the Foreign Secretary tweeting after a meeting with his Bruneian counterpart: “Just had the Bruneian foreign minister to my office to drive home the UK’s shock at new Sharia law. We work well together on many issues, but profoundly disagree on this. His suggestion that Sharia prosecutions are in practice unlikely is not acceptable: everyone should be free to be who they are and love who they want.”
I share these concerns wholeheartedly and know that we will all continue to speak out at every level of government. Some petitioners have suggested that we seek to expel Brunei from the Commonwealth, some that we refuse to trade with them. However in my experience, I have found that engagement works better than boycotts, sanctions and megaphone diplomacy. As Commonwealth members we must respect one another’s cultures and traditions, but we must do so in a manner consistent with our common value of equality. We need to be at the heart of influencing countries, not on their overall governance, but on their approach to human rights.
It was clear from the moment the Government invoked article 50 that any agreement would likely come about late in the process. This has always been the way the EU has negotiated and whilst Parliament has pulled itself apart rather than coalescing around a single vision, Michel Barnier and his team have felt little pressure to offer the Government enough to get the deal over the line.
Until now we have seen a majority of Parliament working against Brexit. The LibDems and the SNP have wanted to pretend that the referendum never happened using a second referendum as a final throw of the die to undo the 2016 result. The Labour leadership just want a General Election. Jeremy Corbyn could write his own deal and still vote against it because of his single minded party political approach. Thus the Conservatives have been the only party looking to achieve an end in the country’s best interest although clearly there are a range of options as to what that end should be.
So we end up after two years approaching the end game; the crunch votes which will see if we get Brexit at all or not. Having campaigned and voted to leave, I voted for the original Withdrawal Agreement as I was and remain worried about the possibility that those of us who battled to get to this point could end up as heroic losers.
Although the default legislative position is that we leave with no deal in the absence of an agreement, there seems to be a clear majority in the House to avoid no deal at all costs. I’ve been clear that I would much rather leave in an orderly fashion with a deal but would be prepared to leave with no deal as long as we have tried everything to secure one first. The best way to tackle any short term turbulence and prosper after has to be by retaining as much goodwill as possible with our nearest trading partners.
But taking No Deal off the table is madness. That would be like someone trying to negotiate a lower price from an estate agent whilst their spouse is behind them measuring up the curtains and holding colour charts up to the walls in full view of the smirking agent. EU member states would like us to remain, albeit not at any cost, so the prospect of sufficient flexibility on the backstop to get the deal across the line diminishes each time a senior MP talks down the UK’s willingness to walk away from the negotiating table.
Leaving on WTO terms will cause disruption for a number of reasons. Firstly WTO terms by its very definition only covers trade, not security or other areas of co-operation so other deals would need to be negotiated as soon as possible. The government has released its latest impact assessment of a No-Deal Brexit expressing concerns about the serious impacts it will have on the UK. We will overcome these in time, should it go on for long. However I am not convinced we will be in no-deal territory for a protracted period. With the clock running down, both sides are eyeballing each other waiting for one to blink and change position. The UK hopes the EU will learn the lesson of the Cameron renegotiation when their reluctance to give him any more than a fig leaf, probably tipped the referendum result to a leave vote. The EU hope we will back down and not walk away without a deal.
However after March 29th, the EU have nothing further to push if they want to see us pay the full amount of recompense outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement and avoid any mitigating budget changes the Chancellor may consider to keep our economy competitive which will likely come at a cost to the EU, especially our nearest neighbours. A revised deal will likely come back within weeks and agreed. If this should transpire, we will need to be creative to ensure that the UK doesn’t lose out in a war of attrition during this period. But there is simply no need to test this theory. We can keep on the road to securing an ambitious free trade deal with the EU and get on with grabbing the opportunities that I voted for when I put a cross in the Leave box, by voting for the Withdrawal Agreement tonight. The second stage of negotiations can turn an imperfect deal into a good one as long as we show the real ambition that Global Britain is all about.
I wish that the EU negotiating team had made this so much easier by showing just a bit of flexibility, recognising the problematic nature of the backstop and making enough change to get the DUP and Conservative leavers to support it. Although the extra legally-binding assurances about the backstop are helpful. Despite the selective reading of the Attorney General’s legal advice by many which has only focused on the last paragraph rather than taking in the whole document, there are three key points about this latest change.
- The improved deal has a new, legally binding commitment, with comparable legal weight to the Withdrawal Agreement, that the EU cannot try to apply the backstop permanently… and the UK could ultimately suspend the backstop if they did.
- The legally binding text also says the UK and EU will work on Alternative Arrangements to replace the backstop by December 2020… so the backstop need never come into force
- The UK Government will make a Unilateral Declaration that if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down so that there is no prospect of subsequent agreement, it is the position of the UK that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately end the backstop.
Failure to leave will be a disaster on so many fronts, not least the prospect of any meaningful reforms to the institution that we will have chained ourselves to for years to come.
Having waited for Brexit for decades, the prospect is just days away. Rather than risk losing this prize, we must grab our chance, get through the open door and run towards freedom.