I was glad to attend the first of the hustings in Sutton and Cheam, where the 5 Prospective Parliamentary Candidates were able to speak and take questions on what is arguably one of the most pressing issues locally and across England, the NHS. We have 5 people looking to secure votes from residents and they represented (in order of speaking) UKIP, Conservative, Labour, Green and NHA. The chairman did a good job, and gave each of the candidates three minutes to introduce themselves in turn. 

Every candidate told us who they were, why they were standing and gave us an outline on their view and interest in the NHS.

In a move that spoke volumes, the audience of about 100 people listened politely and clapped each candidate following their introduction. Except Paul Burstow, who received absolute silence from the audience, which included Cllr Burstow and other Lib Dem members. The audience could not have made more clear the awareness of the role Paul Burstow has played in jepardising the very future of St Helier Hospital, and the dignified (and spontaneous) complete silence he received at the end of his speech was very telling, especially as Cllr Burstow and other Lib Dem supporters were in the audience.

Following questioning from the well informed audience on Burstow's Health and Social Care Act 2012, and specifically Section 75, we were told emphatically by Burstow (Lib Dem), Dalgleish (UKIP) and Scully (Conservative) that they will not repeal the Act or Section 75. In fact they went further and said that they believe the market plays an effective role in cutting costs to the NHS. Needless to say, this was not the standpoint of Brothers (Labour), Tomlinson (Greens) or Ash (NHA), all of whom recognise that market places are not the best way to deliver this essential service. What is more, Labour are backing Clive Efford's NHS Bill next week to protect our NHS

Interestingly, whilst the Scully and Burstow spoke of waste in the NHS and referred to it as a business (not a service), they did not acknowledge the unmandated top down reorganisation of the NHS by this government, of which both their Parties are a part, and Burstow has played a central role in this disastrous waste of millions of pounds of NHS resources. £11.5 million was wasted by the now universally reviled BSBV scheme, which is making a reappearance in the shape of the SW London Commissioning Group 5 Year Plan. This expense is being repeated across England as this government seeks ways to reduce hospital provision. The Judicial Review and Hunt's appeal of the Lewisham case is another clear example of money being taken from the NHS and wasted. This is money that should be being spent on doctors, nurses and equipment for the NHS.

It was interesting to note that the UKIP Candidate is a doctor at St Georges, the very hospital that planners think should take the strain of provision if St Helier is closed or downgraded. And I was amused that he was talking to us about the NHS on the same day that footage emerged of his Party leader saying the NHS should move to an insurance based system.

Never has it been more clear, all of us who value St Helier Hospital locally or our NHS nationally, must work together to free us of  the privatisation of the NHS. I sincerely hope that the constituents of Sutton and Cheam recognise this and they must support candidates who put our NHS and our hospital first, and that means NOT voting for Dalgleish, Burstow or Scully.

As the NHA candidate said, the NHS was founded at a time of real national poverty. If we could afford it then we can afford it now. The NHS is a great achievement, which as a Labour member and campaigner I am extremely proud of. It was born as a result of the work of Labour Minister for Health Anuerin Bevan in 1948. I do not want it to get killed in my life time.  We must move to keep our NHS as fantastic as it is. It must be remembered that it offers the best performing health provision in the world and represents the very best value for money. Satisfaction with the NHS was at an all time high at the end of the last Labour government's term. I met with Andy Burnham recently, along with both Labour candidates in Sutton (Brothers in Sutton and Cheam and Tate in Carshalton and Wallington) and he has pledged to support our hospital and wants us to get back the £219 million he had previously pledged for upgrades to our hospital, taken from us as a result of the threats this government have made to our hospital.

Bonnie Craven