Saving Lewisham Hospital

Campaigns NHS Hospitals

On September 26th Lewisham Council passed a motion pledging to protect the NHS. Two months later, on the evening of Wednesday, 28th November – three spaces, three places, taken up with close to a thousand people all focused upon one thing – the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign.

The fact that the borough is palpably reeling with shock is reflected in the comment made by Dr John Lister of London Health Emergency who told us that this is the largest campaign he has ever seen – and noted how quickly it had come together.

Just 4 days after the March of the 15,000, we all turned out into the dank November night to protect our historic, shiny and solvent, Lewisham Hospital. Catford Broadway Theatre, Lewisham Civic Centre and the floor of the House of Commons – all simultaneously hosting heated discussions about the Trust Special Administrator recommendations for the South London Hospital Trust – currently incorporating Lewisham Hospital in what appears to be an erroneous add-on.

In the Civic Centre, Lewisham Council were in full session. “Lewisham Council notes with great concern the recommendations published by the Trust Special Administrator on October 29’ and called upon the Trust Special Administrator Matthew Kershaw to change his proposals and remove any recommendations which would result in reductions in the services provided to residents of Lewisham by Lewisham Hospital. 

Back in the plush red theatre seats I chaired row upon row of residents, workers and patients who made their feelings very clear – just as they had done at the meeting of the 800 chaired by Brian just 3 weeks earlier; the workforce reeling with shock and trepidation for their patients – so ably described by consultant John O’Donoghue:

  • Is our hospital bankrupt? No!
  • Is our hospital failing the community? No!
  • Our hospital is one of the top 40!
  • We keep dangerously ill people alive – this is unfair and dangerous!

Carol Brown – a former ICU patient spoke movingly of her own life saving care. An ICU which also receives patients from across London. Others who spoke of ‘only just making it into Lewisham A&E’ before collapse and life saving treatment – with no chance whatsoever of reaching another A&E.

Heidi Alexander MP, whose office is managing the protest petition – which now stands at almost 40,000 signatures ( including almost 15,000 street signatures ) gained in less than a month spoke clearly and forcibly of the threat.  (Notably, unlike the H&SC bill, the media need little persuasion to follow our story. 

Representation came from the psychiatric service on the dire impact this would have on the borough’s mental health – and Shirley Franklin of the successful Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition extolled the benefits of joint working – whilst next door the Councillors indeed resolved to work together and ‘actively campaign with residents to make clear to the Trust Special Administrator and the Secretary of State their opposition to these damaging proposals.’

In the Commons, Jim Dowd MP drilled down into the nonsense of Trust Special Administrator Kershaw’s maths : £55million to be spent clearing 60% of a viable and accessible site to recoup only £17-20million and then to spend further money on altering the remaining (nearly new) Lewisham facilities and upgrading hard-to-reach QEH with its’ never-ending PFI.
‘that is almost unbelievable—it does not make any sense whatsoever’ – and referring to ‘the intolerable price that the people of Lewisham are being expected to pay in terms of poorer, less accessible and more inconvenient services’

Back in the public meeting there was predictably a lot of anger about PFI – however the later and affordable Lewisham deal which has provided the borough with state of the art facilities is not the killer. The appallingly badly drawn up Queen Elizabeth Hospital PFI of a decade ago is the element which needs addressing and by the Trust Special Administrator who should be re-negotiating the deal, but ( strangely ) has so far refused to consider it. Why is it that the greedy contractor’s purse continues to be prioritised over patients?

With this in view, Lewisham Council were ‘calling upon the Government to deal with the South London Healthcare’s historic debt and urges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to buy out South London Healthcare Trust’s PFI rather than spread this debt across South London’.

Also adding that the University of Lewisham Hospital Trust should not be drawn into the viability of the QEH and their debt – especially given that the Trust Special Administrator’s draft proposals have not undertaken sufficient work into the capacity needs of A&E facilities needed in South East London – nor have they taken any account of waiting time now or after closures (and also given – as was flagged up in the Broadway meeting – that South East London NHS already warn local GPs that existing A&E’s are already at capacity). Even their travel time assessment is based upon the never to be found time when ‘there is no traffic on the roads’.

Crucially, even before the SLHT ( inc. Lewisham ) Trust Special Administrator ‘consultation’ is ended, Hunt has announced that this dangerous and rushed model is to be rolled out nationally.

For anyone in any doubt as to the implications of this – the objective is clear. Not an improved healthcare re-alignment ( for the evidence suggests that this will produce numerous avoidable deaths and DNAs); not improved services ( £69 million in staff cuts and much reduced A&E, maternity, ICU and paediatric facilities will result ); not a commensurate beef-up of community provision. No. This is setting up Lewisham Hospital ( in a Labour heartland borough ) to fail, so that before long the brand new shiny buildings will be as carrion for the rich pickings of a private sector bargain-basement buy-out.

Oh what a laugh they must be having at the prospect of the only hospital available to Labour voters being a pay-per-entry whilst the poorly and poor NHS patients will have to totter across a complex public transport system to access QEH over an hour away. Such is the prism through which we must view these machinations.

In the meantime……….. we have until 13th December to respond to this travesty.

Unfair, dangerous, unbelievable… Hunt’s death clock ticks down on Lewisham Hospital

Join the fight to save lives and Save Lewisham hospital

Jos Bell and Brian Fisher on behalf of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign team