Until the last few months of his terminal illness, my late father Colin George chaired the Southend Hospital Charitable Foundation, a committee comprised of local people that helped to raise millions of pounds for the provision of amongst other things specialist equipment for the Stroke Unit enabling it to become one of the best in this country.
As a politician he knew that in reality there are actually very few times when people elected to positions of power locally are privileged enough to wield that power in order to shape, influence and even make a real decision that makes a real difference. This is one of those times!
Ironically I was in Hadleigh on Saturday 6th October to discuss with my mother and sister the disposal of my fathers ashes, who having given his body for medical research was only recently cremated as the medical researchers keep donated bodies for three years before releasing the remains to their families. Afterwards I had to go to Basildon as my son had been invited to a birthday party unfortunately we arrived as it finished having been delayed by the accident at the Rayleigh Weir that occurred earlier in the morning and there was traffic chaos on the A127 and A13 as people sought alternative routes from Southend to Basildon.
Then think of the 'golden hour', the period of time between the occurrence of a stroke and the provision of treatment needed in order for there to be a favourable patient outcome. Think of a resident living in the Garrison site in Shoebury and even with a blue light I suspect any ambulance would have struggled to make it from Shoebury to Basildon in under an hour.
My fathers life was saved at an early age by the predecessor of the NHS and as a result remained a firm believer in the NHS. He was a man who devoted his life to the town and people of Southend as a Councillor, County Councillor, Magistrate, General Secretary of the local Citizens Advice Bureau for over 30 years, Chair of Estuary Housing Association and finally as Chair of Southend Hospital's Charitable Foundation.
I know my father would be favour of improved NHS services, however he would not be in favour of change if it was detrimental to patients and other services. Unfortunately it appears that under the STP this is clearly the case.
Therefore I urge you, on behalf of my late father, do not allow the betrayal of thousands of Southend people who raised millions of pounds for their local Hospital and Stroke Unit. Do not 'sit on the fence' or allow yourself to be threatened by arguments of 'lost funding', but instead do the 'right thing for the good of Southend and its people' and refer all or even part of the STP back to the Secretary of State for Health now before it is too late!