The MP for Sutton and Cheam is taking the fight to secure the future of St Raphael’s Hospice all the way to the Pope.

Catholic charity, The Daughters of the Cross, are planning to sell St Anthony’s Hospital in North Cheam but residents are concerned for the neighbouring St Raphael’s Hospice which relies on a £1m invisible subsidy from the private hospital.

Sutton Guardian:

Mr Burstow outside the hospice this year with MP Andrew Lansley

Paul Burstow wants the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to raise the matter through the UK's embassy to the Holy See and wants them to urge the Vatican to overturn plans to sell St Anthony’s Hospital.

He has secured a debate in Parliament on Tuesday, July 16, when he will ask Foreign office minister, Mark Simmonds, to take up the matter.

The hospice’s advisory committee, management at the hospice and hospital, staff and residents have come out against the plans to sell off the hospital.

Paul Burstow MP has written to the Charity Commissioners and to the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith.

However, Archbishop Peter Smith told Mr Burstow he does not have the power to intervene and that only the Vatican has the ability to step in.

Campaigners are proposing that a new charity be established to take on the management of both the hospital and hospice.

Mr Burstow said: “The future of St Raphael’s hospice is being put at risk by a dogmatic decision to sell-off St Antony’s hospital to the highest commercial bidder. 

"The hospice and hospital share a Christian mission of care for the sick and dying and they are inextricably linked by administrative and other support the hospital provides.

“The trustees have ignored the views and wishes of the staff and the local community. 

"There is an alternative that would protect the charitable ethos of the hospice and hospital, maintain the special relationship and offer the trustee’s a way of passing on responsibility for both to a newly created Catholic Charity that the existing trustees could hand over to. 

"It is disappointing that so far the Daughter of the Cross have not been willing to see reason.

“It seems that there is no one in the Catholic Church in England who has the authority to intervene that is why I am raising the matter with the Foreign Office.”

Sister Veronica Hagen, chair of the trustees, has repeatedly said they took strong independent counsel on all the possible options – including setting up a new charity.

However the trustees say that a new charity and company would have required longer-term commitment from the national charity and at time of unprecedented change for the health sector and has the potential to put their other works, including St Raphael’s, at risk.

The trustees argue the proposed sale of the hospital provides the most viable option for the hospice’s long term future within the community and for the national charity they run.