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Joan Ryan and Enfield North MP Nick de Bois clash over key service closures at Chase Farm Hospital
Two politicians vying to represent Enfield after the next election have clashed over the closure of key services at Chase Farm Hospital.
Labour representative Joan Ryan, who served as Enfield North MP for 13 years until 2010, is standing for re-election against sitting MP Nick de Bois in 2015 after losing out to her Conservative counterpart the last time voters went to the polls.
In her recent campaign leaflet, Ms Ryan pointed the finger at Mr de Bois for the downgrade of Chase Farm Hospital, which is due to see the closure of its accident and emergency ward on December 9, following the closure of its maternity ward last month.
She wrote: “As your MP, I worked alongside the local community, health professionals, patients’ representatives and my fellow Labour colleagues for 13 years to keep Chase Farm maternity services and a blue-light accident and emergency department.”
However, a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request submitted to the Government’s Cabinet office, and subsequently leaked to the Enfield Independent, suggests the former Labour MP had accepted the hospital’s unpopular fate.
The request to the ministerial office asked for “any records, minutes of meetings of confirmation of appointments or written submissions, letters or emails between the Prime Minister and MP Joan Ryan in respect of discussion of clinical and emergency services at Chase Farm Hospital between July 2009 and January 28, 2010”.
And the minutes of a meeting on November 13, 2009, between Ms Ryan and the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown state: “Joan Ryan said that she did not want any downgrading of Chase Farm Hospital, but that she was tempted to bow to the inevitable. Although she did not want to concede on the clinical arguments, she accepted that we had to move on.”
Chase Ward Conservative Councillor Tom Waterhouse said: “What these minutes show is that when Joan Ryan said she was taking the fight for Chase Farm Hospital to her Labour colleagues at the top of Government, actually she was conceding defeat. This is an appalling breach of trust and proves yet again, as did her role in the MPs’ expenses scandal, that she isn’t fit to be our local member of parliament.”
But Ms Ryan told the Enfield Independent she “never gave up” campaigning to save the hospital.
She said: “This is a desperate smear from Nick de Bois, who wants to divert attention away from the fact that, despite Prime Minister David Cameron promising to save Chase Farm Hospital, this Tory-led Government is responsible for downgrading our A&E and closing our maternity unit.
“People in Enfield know that I never accepted the case for downgrading Chase Farm and never gave up campaigning for a 24-hour doctor-led local hospital, as this document shows.
“If Nick de Bois had fought half as hard as me, Chase Farm Hospital would not be losing its A&E or maternity services. This just goes to show that whatever they say, you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
But Mr de Bois said: “I’m not going to engage in a war of words with Joan Ryan over Chase Farm Hospital. We’ve had a cross-party approach locally since 2010 in trying to save Chase Farm and we need to continue that cross-party approach if we’re going to get the best possible health services in Enfield. We need serious improvements in primary care and I won’t be distracted from that.”
Former leader of the Labour council Jeff Rodin said: “I am not surprised by this news. She would have had to continue campaigning at the time, despite knowing its fate. To be completely honest, I think both Joan and Nick are totally incapable with fresh ideas. They seem to be so short of issues that they are campaigning about something which they have no influence on.”
The Enfield North constituency is one of the most marginal in the country with Mr de Bois’ majority standing at 1,692, less the three per cent of the electorate.
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