Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow has defended his decision to back a controversial Government reforms campaigners fear could threaten St Helier hospital.

Mr Burstow voted in favour of clause 119 - a reform to the care bill that gives the health secretary the power to close underperforming hospitals - in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Although he did secure an amendment to the bill that means clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) - made up of local GPs - will be consulted prior to any action and he will chair a steering group that will give guidance to CCGs and patients groups where hospitals are under threat.

Clause 119, dubbed the hospital closure clause, has been widely criticised by rival politicians and coalition MPs were believed to be considering a rebellion until Mr Burstow made his amendments.

Protesters gathered in Sutton on Sunday to voice their disapproval to the plans amid fears it could increase the threat to Sutton's St Helier hospital, which already faces an uncertain future amid planned Government cuts.

But Mr Bustow said concerns about the clause have been exaggerated by rival politicians. He said: "This clause will only come into play when a hospital goes belly up and can't pay its bills. Once everything else has been done to try to fix the problem, so when they've special measures, help from outside management and more, this clause will be triggered.

"I moved the amendment because I had some concerns about the safeguards in place to make sure CCGs were involved and that there wasn't enough emphasis on given to the public so we got provisions for [patients' group]HealthWatch to be involved and local councils.

"This is a slight change to measures the last Labour government brought in but they don't want to paint it that way."

The clause was written after Jeremy Hunt's decision to close Lewisham hospital last year was overturned by the court of appeal because it deemed it out of his jurisdiction.

Emily Brothers, the Labour party's candidate against Mr Burstow in Sutton and Cheam, said: "Instead of standing up for local people and doctors, Mr Burstow has contrived with the Government to centralise power, taking it away from residents and commissioners in Sutton and Cheam.

"The down-grading or closure of St Helier Hospital will now be so much easier, due to Mr Burstow contriving to take power from local people and commissioners."