Sutton KOSHH March

The protest march reaches the St Helier open space in front of the hospital

I don’t often go to Sutton, a town in South London, part of Surrey that was absorbed into Greater London in the local government reforms of 1965.  It really isn’t a place there is much to go there for, unless you need to shop, and there are plenty of other places for that.  I did spend a little time in the area in 1997  when I was photographing London and its buildings, though I think I found relatively little to interest me in Sutton itself. Since then then only time I can remember returning is when with seven friends we put on a photography show in the library there in 2007.

One of the campaigns that I’ve come across regularly taking part in various protests about the NHS, against cuts in services, creeping privatisation and hospital closures has been KOSSH, a slightly sinister sounding name standing for ‘Keep our St Helier Hospital ‘, and when I got an email telling me about their planned march celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS and against the plans of the Epsom and St Helier trust to close A&E, Maternity, Paediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Surgery, Intensive Care, Coronary Care and the Cancer Centre at one or both hospitals and sell off the sites, I was interested to join them and photograph the event.

Of course, as so often it wasn’t the only event I would like to have covered. Also taking place in Central London was the annual Pride march, which I’ve photographed most years since the early 1990s, as well as several other local events. But Pride isn’t what it was, and the march in particular has become such a corporate event that I’ve rather lost interest in photographing it. Last year’s event had been enlivened by the Anti-Racist & Migrant Rights Pride march, which had managed to take pride of place at the front of the main event (though only because they were not allowed to join the main march) but there appeared to be nothing like that planned this year, though later I heard that a group of anti-trans feminists had put in an appearance.

So my plan for the day had been to go to Sutton and photograph the march, then go into Soho and photograph on the streets there after the official march. But it was a very hot day, and by the time I had marched all the way to St Helier Hospital and photographed the short rally there,  I was exhausted, and caught the two trains to take me home for a cool drink and a rest.

St Helier Hospital (the site includes the Queen Mary children’s hospital) is one of the few buildings in the area that had attracted my attention back in the 1997, on high ground a mile or two north of the centre of Sutton, in one of the largest council-built estates in London. The St Helier Estate was a ‘garden city’ cottage  overspill estate built by the London County Council between 1928 and 1936 outside of London,  and with over 9000 homes was the largest such development by the LCC other than Becontree, and the hospital there, in a modern style, was opened in 1938.

Closing either of the hospitals would lead to longer emergency journeys in what is often a very congested part of London.  The full range of services would only be available at St Georges in Tooting. Back in 2003 I sat in an ambulance for around an hour stuck in traffic on my way there – until one of the medics accompanying me suggested I might have an emergency – and even then with blue lights flashing our progress was slow. The proposed cuts would reduce services at a time when needs are increasing and are proposed only to save money to meet government cuts which call for huge savings by the trust.

The die-in at the end of the march wasn’t huge, and quite a few of those who started the march, including several in poor health, didn’t manage to complete it in the summer heat, though I’m sure none actually died. But it made the point that hospital closures will lead to people dying, particularly those needing emergency treatment.

More at NHS at 70 – Save St Helier Hospital


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.