Doctors from across south west London have rallied round to support Dr Howard Freeman after Merton Council’s leader called for him to quit.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis called for Dr Freeman, who is the head of Merton Clinical Commissioning Group, to step down after plans to save nearly half a billion pounds in health cost across south west London was dubbed unachievable by health service regulators.

Hours after the pair met on Friday, June 6, Coun Alambritis urged Dr Freeman to quit his job in what he said is not a personal attack.

Coun Alambritis said it was the position as chairman which was untenable.

A joint statement released by GP chairmen of Croydon, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) today slammed what they called the personal attack on Dr Freeman.

It said: "We are disappointed that Merton councillors are attempting to play politics over the serious challenges faced by the local NHS, which we as local GPs are trying to address.

"Dr Freeman is a respected and experienced colleague who has been elected by Merton GPs to represent them.

"He has been part of a south west London wide programme which is supported by all of us and our GP membership.

"Neither he nor we will be distracted from the task of improving healthcare in south west London by personal attacks of this nature."

Anne Rainsberry, regional director of NHS England (London), said: "Dr Freeman is a very experienced and respected clinician, not just across London as a whole, but across the entire NHS and has our full support."

Coun Alambritis has stood by his claims following the outpouring of support.

He said: "It is entirely up to him to call out his position.

"We are sticking by our decision because that’s what the electorate said.

"They wanted St Helier Hospital to stay as it is but to be improved.

"It is not personal, it is the chairman position."

A draft strategy from newly formed South West London Collaborative Commissioning (SWLCC) was published last month stating there is a predicted budget shortfall of £210m over the next five years.

It would be shared between clinical commissioning groups working in Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Croydon, Kingston and Richmond.

In addition to this Epsom and St Helier, Croydon, Kingston and St George's NHS trusts have to identify £360m worth of savings over the same time period.