Lewisham Hospital – Top Down Reorganisation You Can See From Space

By Brian Fisher in a personal capacity

I’m a GP in Lewisham and have been involved in the campaign as clinician, resident and Clinical Commissioning Group worker.

I have never seen so much involvement, enthusiasm and passion for a health issue. Through impressive organisation and a superb comms and press team, we have triggered deep feelings of anger and resistance.

People in the borough see a distant political machine riding rudely over our services, our interests and our health. The unfairness seems blatant and the attitude casual and dismissive.

You can feel the top-down reorganisation.

The campaign has been organised by a febrile mix of groups who clash, compete and complain – topics at meetings are contested, the atmosphere is literally full of hot air. But the outcomes are vital, positive and imaginative, with a lot of flexibility thrown in. The Labour Party has been well represented, as has the SHA. I can’t say it’s fun, but it is exciting and hugely positive.

Hunt has now ruled against the people of Lewisham. With a small tweak, the Trust Special Administrator’s plans are in essence endorsed. We will lose safe maternity and paediatric provision and the A+E will be downgraded. Healthcare will be worse for the population of Lewisham.

This is quite unacceptable.

The TSA’s computer generated accountancy can be contested. Alternative calculations from the same figures show that financial balance could be reached in SE London even if Lewisham were left alone and took over Woolwich Hospital.

No-one is suggesting that we should not change and improve care. In many pathways, care could be closer to home and probably cheaper and better. But to sacrifice a thriving popular hospital for the sake of an ideology that has hardly a scrap of evidence to back it up is an example that we cannot allow to happen elsewhere. Hunt will use this approach to speed up crushing reconfigurations across the country with compressed consultation.

We can see how bankers are protected while patients are sacrificed. How the marketisation of healthcare means that A+E patients have to be funnelled elsewhere so that they can be made to fund other hospitals under threat. How a national neo-liberal programme prioritises austerity instead of growth and forces the NHS to make savings that are then lost to the Treasury.

At Lewisham we shall continue to fight.