Please Sign the Petitions to Prevent the Closure of Lewisham Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department

1.11.12

Please sign the petition launched by Heidi Alexander MP! And the e-petition to the British government!

On Monday, as I explained here, Matthew Kershaw, an NHS special administrator appointed in summer by the great butcher of the NHS, Andrew Lansley, delivered his draft report on “securing sustainable NHS services” (summary here) — a title laden with spin, as Kershaw’s job was to find a way to carve up the indebted South London Healthcare Trust.

A “super-trust” covering the London Boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, which was ill-advisedly created in 2009, the SLHT had accrued a deficit, expected to reach £207 million by next March, which led to it being placed in administration in July 2012, when the Tory-led coalition government’s “Regime for Unsustainable NHS Providers” was enacted, specifically — in the first instance — to deal with its problems, although if the government can get away with axing entire NHS trusts and let in private contractors, then that is undoubtedly what they will do, and what they have had in mind all along.

The Trust was burdened with unaffordable PFI debts (a toxic legacy of Gordon Brown’s enthusiasm for PFI which hovers like an angel of death over numerous hospitals and trusts, as well as schools and other major projects), and had, it seems, not managed its finances as well as it could have, although Matthew Kershaw’s solution, to break it up, and to punish Lewisham — not in debt, and never part of the South London Healthcare Trust — by axing its A&E department, which serves 250,000 people, and moving it to Woolwich, as part of the failed Trust’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, is a pill that is too bitter to swallow for any of the residents of Lewisham who have not been taken in by the government’s lies about austerity and all being in it together. Just to make it clear, if the plans go ahead, the QEH in Woolwich will be responsible for the A&E needs of 750,000 people, and will be the only A&E department in the three London boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley.

As the website “Save Lewisham A&E” has also explained, when dealing with Lewisham, Matthew Kershaw “also proposes children’s wards, critical care, complex/emergency surgery and perhaps maternity services be closed by 2015/16, and the hospital’s Victorian buildings be sold off for £17million,” which is only £5 million more than the £12 million that was spent on refurbishing the hospital, including its A&E department, earlier this year.

Two petitions have just been launched, and I urge you please to sign them if you’re in south London, or if you’re anywhere else in London, the UK or anywhere else in the world and you care about the future of the NHS.

The first petition was initiated just three days ago by Heidi Alexander MP, the MP for Lewisham East, and it has so far attracted over 3,500 signatures. Please sign it here!

The second petition is an e-petition to the British government, so you’ll need to be a UK citizen or resident to sign it.

Also, if you can, come along to the public meeting to oppose the plans announced in Matthew Kershaw’s draft report, which is taking place on Thursday November 8, from 6-8pm, in the Lessoff Auditorium at Lewisham Hospital, with Heidi Alexander MP, Jim Dowd MP (for Lewisham West and Penge), Lewisham’s Mayor Steve Bullock, Dr. Louise Irvine, local GP and BMA council member, and other speakers to be announced.

Clearly, punishing Lewisham for the problems of another NHS trust is unfair on every level, but also please do consider that, although a reorganisation of the South London Healthcare Trust may well be a necessity, its £207 million deficit ought not to be considered alone, and should be set against the £8.9 billion cost of the Olympic Games (expected to rise to as much as £24 billion when all the costs are tallied up), for example, or, as reported on Monday, the £1.4 billion in savings delivered to the Treasury by the NHS, £1 billion of which has been seized by George Osborne.

As the Guardian reported:

The department of health confirmed that it had underspent its allocated funding by £1.4bn this year, half a billion more than it predicted in March. While £400m will be rolled over for the department to spend in 2012-13, the remaining £1bn has been returned to the Treasury.

Labour highlighted that the cash was being returned while there were 6,000 fewer nurses in the NHS since the coalition took power. “The government is clawing back money from the NHS at the same time as it is handing a tax cut to millionaires and P45s to nurses”, said Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary.

“The prime minister needs to be straight with the public on his Government’s record on NHS funding. On the very same day he was boasting to the Commons about increasing NHS spending, we learn that George Osborne has made another £1 billion raid on the NHS budget.”

For me, the bottom line about the NHS is that every London borough needs a fully functioning A&E department, and this should be the starting point for plans dealing with “securing sustainable NHS services,” and not just looking at budgets and deficits. Money can be saved, but if an axe is placed permanently above the NHS on the basis of cost alone, more and more hospitals and trusts will be undermined, more and more essential services will be lost, and the only people who will gain will be those involved in the private companies who are currently drooling on the sidelines.

The timeline for derailing the plans for NHS services in south London is below, as explained in Matthew Kershaw’s draft report:

Consultation – The TSA [the Trust Special Administrator] must run a consultation over 30 working days to validate and improve the draft recommendations in the draft report. This will take place between 2 November and 13 December 2012.

Final Report – The TSA must use consultation responses to inform the final report to the Secretary of State. This will take place from the end of the consultation to 7 January 2013, when the final report is due.

Secretary of State Decision – The Secretary of State has 20 working days to determine what action to take in relation to the organisation. The Secretary of State must then publish and lay in Parliament a notice containing the final decision and the reasons behind it. The Secretary of State’s decision is final with no right of appeal; this final decision must be published by 1 February 2013.

The time to fight is NOW! Please, please, please get involved if you can, and if this affects you in any way.

Note: The photo above was originally posted on Flickr, as part of two sets of photos of the TUC-organised “A Future That Works” march and rally in central London on October 20. See here and here.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

19 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Ann Alexander wrote:

    Signed, Andy.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ann! 3,600 signatures now. Let’s get it to 4,000 by the end of today!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    3,734 signatures now. Please keep encouraging people to sign!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    3,847 now. Keep on signing and promoting, my friends! We need to send a powerful signal to this wretched government that just because they passed the legislation doesn’t mean that we will accept the slow death of the NHS.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Sharing this, Andy.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Posted and signed.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. The petition currently has 4,178 signatures, and the campaign is the front page story in the South London Press today. More on that soon! The target for the petition is still set at 5,000. I hope the organisers will be raising that to 10,000 soon.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    4,216 now. The petition’s here, btw: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lewisham-hospital/

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Now it’s on 4,596. Still about one signature a minute, which can’t be bad! And the target’s been raised to 7.500.

  10. Peter Thomas says...

    Why do you or whoever it might be make it so hard to sign it took me 5 attempts to pass that Capita thing guess the numbers and letters ?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Sorry to hear about that, Peter. Nothing to do with me – or the people setting up the petitions – but I know the hoops you have to jump through can be annoying. However, I don’t think there’s any other way to avoid security breaches.

  12. jody dewar says...

    it will be a sin to close a/e we must not let it happen

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely, Jody. This is the battle we all need to take part in. For two and a half years the government has been getting away with its plans to destroy the state provision of services. It’s time to fight back!

  14. Joe Cobham says...

    A & E at Lewisham Hospital saved my life and that of my family. Last year when I sufferred 3 successive seizures in 1 hour. The paramedics arrived at my house in 3 minutes, revived and rushed me to the hospital. We cannot afford to lose our A & E.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Joe. That is exactly the kind of story that Matthew Kershaw and his team need to hear. I am very glad to hear that Lewisham Hospital was there for you. We now need to make sure that it will be there for anyone in a similar position in future.

  16. mr. r.e.heppolette says...

    i am 84 years of age were it not for the a@e i would not be here today to spend quality time with my family/the medics, doctors and nurses are the true knights of the realm/ the privileged and the rich are the enemies..perhaps the government administrator needs a meerkat to cuddle…alexander… go get him one quick it might save us our a@e

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Important comments, Mr. Heppolette. Thanks for getting touch.

  18. mr. r.e.heppolette says...

    I do not understand your comment is waiting moderation…but here goes.I am 84 years of age were it not for the a@e I would not be here today to spend quality time with my family and friends. many thanks to all the medics, nurses and doctors. friends are Gods way of taking care of us

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Mr. Heppolette. Your comments are exactly the kind of comments that Matthew Kershaw and his team should be paying attention to. Thanks for getting in touch. Sorry I didn’t reply earlier or approve the comment. I’m currently travelling in the US.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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