top of page

General Election 2024: Maldon candidates go head-to-head as St Peter’s Hospital debate rages

By Ben Shahrabi

St Peter's Hospital
'Imperative' - St Peter's Hospital could shut for good. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

A “VITAL” community hospital took centre stage as five general election candidates went head-to-head during a hustings in Maldon on Monday night (June 24).

Residents were invited to submit their questions to the panel beforehand, while some audience members were able to take up the mic and speak directly to the candidates.

Organised by the Salvation Army and Churches Together in Maldon, residents piled into the United Reformed Church on Market Hill for the hustings.

The panel was made of Simon Burwood (Lib Dem), Isobel Doubleday (Green), Onike Gollo (Labour), Pam Walford (Reform), and Sir John Whittingdale (Conservative).

They fielded a range of questions, but one of the biggest issues facing constituents centred on St Peter’s Hospital, which is faced with possibly permanent closure since it was deemed “not fit for purpose”.

Sir John Whittingdale said: “The dedication of the hospital’s staff is second to none.

John Whittingdale
Sir John Whittingdale, Conservative. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

“We’ve been talking about getting a new hospital for almost as long as I’ve been an MP. I’ve been very active and have raised the issue with the Prime Minister in Parliament.

“I’m determined Maldon will have a community hospital – if possible, on the St Peter’s site – because the population is growing very rapidly.”

Sir John added healthcare should help people live at home for “as long as possible” but an “insurance-based model” may need to be considered.

He said: “This is one of the biggest challenges to face whoever forms the next government. We need to look at other solutions, perhaps moving to some form of personal insurance.”

Isobel Doubleday, Green Party.
Isobel Doubleday, Green Party. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

Green candidate Isobel Doubleday gave birth to her first daughter at St Peter’s.

She said: “It’s vitally important for Maldon. It’s an iconic building but it’s falling to pieces in places because it hasn’t been maintained.

“The NHS is broken. Nurses and doctors are overworked and not given enough respect and time to do what they need to.”

Lib Dem candidate Simon Burwood told the audience how one resident he spoke to warned how the closure could stop families visiting loved ones in hospital.

He said: “When her husband had a stroke, the resident went to visit him at St Peter’s every day for six weeks. If he’d been at the new Brentwood stroke unit, she wouldn’t have been able to support him.

“Families are going to miss out. It’s imperative we have services at St Peter’s.”

Labour candidate Onike Gollo lambasted the Conservative government for “missed opportunities” over healthcare.

She said: “St Peter’s is symbolic of what’s happening to hospitals across the UK. They’ve been allowed to get into a state.

Onike Gollo, Labour.
Onike Gollo, Labour. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

“It’s exacerbated by housing and a lack of infrastructure, affecting the people of Maldon. We need healthcare close to home.”

Ms Gollo pledged Labour would provide 40,000 extra hospital appointments and reintroduce family doctors.

Reform UK candidate Pamela Walford was “surprised” the issue had not been resolved.

“I’m amazed this is still going on,” she said.

“Surely it should have been sorted years ago. We don’t want to replace it, we just want it updated.”

Pamela Walford, Reform UK.
Pamela Walford, Reform UK. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

During the hustings, the cost-of-living crisis; housing in the district; education; public transport; immigration; the environment; sewage in local rivers; the effects of Brexit; and the rising cost of childcare were all brought to the fore.

Mrs Walford was chosen first to respond to a question on working families turning to food banks as they struggle to afford essential goods.

She said: “It’s a travesty. Something has got to be done to ensure people get a liveable wage and don’t need food banks.

“But not all those who go to food banks need to. Something’s gone wrong with the structure because the people who actually need food can’t get it.”

Simon Burwood, Liberal Democrats.
Simon Burwood, Liberal Democrats. (Credit: Ben Shahrabi)

Mr Burwood says the Liberal Democrats intend to decrease the cost of living and give people “more money in their pockets”.

He added: “I’m so embarrassed we have food banks. It’s awful that people must rely so heavily on them, in this day and age.”

Mrs Gollo described it as “a huge shame”.

“Food banks are not a success story. This is a failure of government – it needs to take responsibility.

“At heart, we need a government that actually cares.”

Manifestoes for each political party can be found below:


bottom of page