MOUNT VERNON’S future is safe. The cancer unit at Mount Vernon Hospital – one of Britain’s world-renowned cancer treatment facilities – will not be closed or moved but will be staying at Mount Vernon Hospital. This ends almost 12 years of uncertainty about the hospital and, in particular, about the cancer unit’s future.

Back in 1995 a decision was taken under John Major to merge Mount Vernon with Watford General and then, a year later, to close the accident and emergency unit at Mount Vernon. These were decisions by the then government which I tried to stop as it was obvious they put at risk the very future of the cancer unit and indeed of the hospital itself.

When I was elected in 1997 I discovered that there had been plans in the minds of some to try to sell off Mount Vernon to housing developers, shifting the remaining services to other neighbouring hospitals. Those plans I was able to stop, thanks in no small part to the superb campaigning work by the excellent Community Voice, the Pinner Association, Hatch End Residents’ Association, Headstone Residents’ Associations and the South Harrow Residents’ Association. Together we successfully lobbied the health authorities and government ministers.

There has been an ongoing threat that the cancer unit would have to move. Hertfordshire health authorities wanted to create a brand new hospital with Mount Vernon’s cancer unit at its heart. It was always perfectly reasonable for Hertfordshire residents to want better health services but not at Harrow’s loss. Mount Vernon is close to Harrow, is well used by Harrow residents and has always had very good doctors and first class nurses. More than 80,000 people signed petitions in support of Mount Vernon thanks to superb work by Community Voice, local residents’ associations and a cross-party campaign.

If you were one of those who did sign – your support did make a difference. It has genuinely helped to save a service and a hospital. Final confirmation that the cancer unit was secure came as a result of recent meetings with Ben Bradshaw MP (Minister for London’s health service) and in meetings with local primary care trusts and other heath authorities.

New investment is also happening at Mount Vernon – a new £20 million treatment centre for example to help get more people needing an operation in north west London treated more quickly. There is still more work to do at Mount Vernon – further investment in the fabric of the hospital is still needed – but for now, thanks to a huge effort, Mount Vernon’s cancer unit is staying put.