MP Chris Grayling has been accused of hypocrisy after helping to open a private medical imaging centre in Epsom while urging patients to ask to be treated at threatened Epsom Hospital.

Mr Grayling joined snooker ‘whirlwind’ Jimmy White and the mayor of Epsom and Ewell, Councillor Christine Long, to officially open the innovative Clock House Alliance Imaging Centre in Dorking Road, Epsom, in November.

It is a new centre providing private and NHS out-patients with MRI scans, x-rays and ultrasound services, and Mr Grayling opened the diagnostic centre building.

But just last month the MP, who is leading a campaign to save Epsom Hospital , warned that it is losing millions of pounds worth of business to the private sector locally and urged patients to put pressure on their GPs to provide services at the hospital.

He said that Epsom Hospital needs to recover some of the £14million a year of activity that used to carried out on the site but which has now been taken into the primary care sector by "entrepreneurial" GPs.

The apparent contradiction between these views and helping open yet another local private medical facility was highlighted in a letter to this newspaper today, from Janet Holah, chairwoman of the Mid Surrey local involvement network (LINk).

She said: "Whilst Mid Surrey LINk is not averse to new imaging facilities opening, and not implying any criticism of the quality of this service since it does afford patients greater choice, we do find it somewhat puzzling that the local council and MP should be giving Epsom Hospital’s competition such support as evidenced in your paper last week. 

"It is clearly in the interests of Epsom residents that the hospital’s future is secure and sustainable and something that patients may also like to consider when making their choice is that one clear benefit of MRI , CRT or X ray at Epsom Hospital is that the clinical team follow up is on site and presumably better linked to diagnostic facilities."

But Mr Grayling said he supports private facilities in the area, as long as patients have the choice to be treated at the hospital.

He told the Epsom Guardian this afternoon: "I will support any business in the area and I support patients. 

"What’s important is that patients have the choice to go to Epsom Hospital and it’s clear that doesn’t always happen.

"I am always actively encouraging Epsom Hospital’s consultants to take as much as their business back on to the Epsom Hospital site as they can. 

"That’s an important part of securing the future of Epsom Hospital and doesn’t mean that there should be no private facilities locally.

"But we need Epsom Hospital to be as strong as possible in a variety of different areas.

"The opening of the Clock House centre was attended by a number of people including hospital consultants, GPs and others in the local community."