As a week of action begins to raise awareness of the threat to NHS services across London, with A&E Departments and other services at risk from Ealing to Lewisham, the new Save London’s NHS campaigning group has issued a press release providing further information to add to the information I made available in an article last week, Defend London’s NHS: Join the Week of Action from February 9 to 16. With a press conference in the House of Commons officially launching the week of action tomorrow (February 11), I’m posting the press release below:
This is to alert you to the launch of a new London-wide coalition of doctors, patients and health workers opposed to the downgrading of A&Es and other vital hospital services in the capital.
Angered by the ‘divide-and-rule’ policies of NHS bureaucrats and politicians that set one hospital against another, Defend London’s NHS is calling for a London residents to come together and defend all their services.
The campaign kicks off on Monday, 11 February, with a press conference at the House of Commons bringing together representatives of the Lewisham, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston and Islington hospitals campaigns. Speakers include: Dr. Louise Irvine of Save Lewisham Hospital; Dr. Onkar Sahota, London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon and Save Our Hospitals Ealing; Julie Reay, Kingston Hospital UNISON; Shirley Franklin, Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition; Dr. John Lister, from London Health Emergency; and Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith (Labour) and secretary of Save Hammersmith & Fulham Hospitals. [Also, it is now confirmed that Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East (Labour) will speak].
This will be followed by a Week of Action involving meetings, protests and vigils outside London hospitals faced with imminent threats to their A&E and maternity units. Details are constantly being updated but at present the actions include:
- a public meeting on 12 February in defence of Whittingdon hospital [Archway Methodist Hall, 7.30 pm, with MPs Jeremy Corbyn, David Lammy and Frank Dobson. For the latest on the threat to the hospital, see the Defend Whittington Hospital website. Also sign the petition here].
- a rally on 15 February in Lewisham in protest at the recent decision by the Secretary of State for Health to downgrade the hospital’s A&E and maternity services [at the war memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital, at 1pm. Speakers include Lewisham’s Mayor, Steve Bullock, trade unionists and community activists. On Saturday February 16 there will also be stalls outside Lewisham Shopping Centre publicising the campaign].
- the presentation on 14 February of ‘We Love Our NHS’ Valentine’s cards at the Department of Health [by Save Our Hospitals Ealing campaigners. Get in touch here].
- simultaneous rallies in Hammersmith and Ealing on 16 February in protest at NHS North West London’s plans to downgrade A&E, maternity and other services at Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Ealing hospitals [with both beginning at 12 noon -- the Ealing event is at Ealing Broadway shopping centre, and is organised by the Save Our Hospitals Ealing campaign, and the Hammersmith event is organised by Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith and Fulham, and takes place in Lyric Square, King Street. Hammersmith. See the Save Our Hospitals website here, and the Facebook page].
- a demonstration on 16 February in Kingston in protests at NHS South West London’s plans to close two out of five of the A&Es and maternity units serving the area [beginning at 12 noon, organised by Kingston Save Our Hospitals, involving a march from Norbiton Station to Kingston Guildhall. See the Facebook page here, and the website here].
For further details please send a representative to the press conference on 11th February 2013 in the Jubilee Room, House of Commons, 10-11.45am.
Current threats to London hospitals include:
- The imminent downgrading of Lewisham Hospital’s new A&E and maternity units in order to meet the debts of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust [for further information on the massive campaign in Lewisham, see the Save Lewisham Hospital website, and my archive of articles and photos here].
- The downgrading or closure of A&Es at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals. NHS North West London is expected to due to make its final recommendation at a meeting on 19 February [see the Save Our Hospital website, and please note the very recent proposal to "save" Charing Cross by less severely downgrading A&E Department. This is essentially the same as the proposals for Lewisham, announced two weeks ago. As Londonist explained, "The A&E settlement is very similar to that proposed for Lewisham, which we noted last week is actually the worst of all worlds. It may sound like a joke, but the answer to “when is an A&E not an A&E” will be -- for Lewisham and Charing Cross -- “when you have a life threatening illness” and will have to be treated elsewhere … Lewisham isn’t prepared to accept this solution and the council is about to begin legal action. Hammersmith and Fulham, on the other hand, are dropping their own legal challenge when faced with the same situation. Campaigners in NW London are vowing to continue to fight, pointing out that cutting inpatient beds from 500 to 60 isn’t “saving” a hospital"].
- The closure of two out of four A&E departments at either St. Helier, Epsom, Kingston or Croydon University Hospital by South West London NHS Trust [see the website here].
In most areas, the proposal is to replace the axed A&E and maternity units with ‘A&E’s lite’ or Urgent Care Centres – GP-run walk-in clinics able to treat only a limited number of minor conditions. In other areas, hospitals in adjacent boroughs will be asked to take up the slack, forcing patients to commute miles further for life-saving treatments and putting an intolerable strain on departments already operating at or near full capacity.
Many consultants and GPs, who from next April will have to make sense of the reorganisation when PCTs [Primary Care Trusts] hand over to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups, share patients’ anxieties about the proposed reconfigurations of hospital services as the plans often fly in the face of expert clinical advice – hence the threat last week by seven Lewisham GPs to resign from the local CCG.
For further information, please contact me, or contact Bella Hardwick, the chair of Kensington and Chelsea Residents Save Our Hospitals. Additionally, Mark Honigsbaum of Save Hammersmith & Fulham Hospitals can be found on Twitter (@honigsbaum, @savehfhospitals), and Kensington and Chelsea Residents Save Our Hospitals are also on Twitter (@KCRSOH).
Defend London NHS is a non-partisan, residents-led campaign group bringing together representatives of Save Our Hospitals Ealing, Save Hammersmith & Fulham Hospitals, Save Lewisham Hospital, Kensington & Chelsea residents in support of Save Our Hospitals, Bexley SOLH, St Helier campaign as well as representatives of Disabled People Against the Cuts, Keep Our NHS Public, Campaign to Defend Brent’s Health Services, Brent North Labour Party, Defend Haringey Health Services, Kingston Against the Cuts, London Keep Our NHS Public, Greenwich KONP, Lambeth KONP,NHS/Unite, Hackney KONP, Hackney Coalition to save the NHS, RMT, Lewisham SOS, Left Foot Forward, Save Lewisham Hospital, Unison, Save Lewisham A&E, NHS Liaison Network, Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, Unite, West London Council of Action, Save Chase Farm, 38 Degrees Islington, Action for the NHS, SOS NHS Croydon, Community Options Redbridge, Harrow KONP, Black Disabled People’s Association/E.J. Foundation, North East London Council of Action, Chiswick CIP, GMB, Camden NHS Action, Coalition of Resistance, London Wide KONP, National Health Action Party, Consultants, GPs, nurses and other health workers.
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.
Thank you to everyone who has liked and shared this. The campaign to prevent the serious downgrading of NHS services – in London and beyond – is going to be a defining struggle over the next few years as the Tories continue to try and destroy the state provision of services, and senior NHS management play along with it. The NHS is the single most important institution in the UK, and it is essential that we fight for it. As Nye Bevan said, “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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