Photos: Save Lewisham Hospital Rally, February 15, 2013

16.2.13

Save Lewisham Hospital protest, February 15, 2013Don't tear the ♥ from our hospitalSave Lewisham A&ESave Lewisham Hospital: the bannerDr. Louise Irvine, the chair of Save Lewisham Hospital, speaksSave Lewisham Hospital: the crowd on February 15, 2013
Killer Kershaw!Steve Bullock, Lewisham's Mayor, speaks at the rally to save the hospital, February 15, 2013Have a heart, Mr. HuntDon't keep calm, get angry and save Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham Hospital: a speaker from Lewisham Pensioners ForumCalling for Lewisham Hospital to be saved
The crowd in front of Lewisham HospitalSolidarity for Lewisham Hospital from the Fire Brigade UnionSupport from Goldsmiths CollegeSave the NHS from the profiteers

Save Lewisham Hospital Rally, February 15, 2013, a set on Flickr.

In Lewisham, in south east London, Save Lewisham Hospital campaigners, trade union representatives and concerned residents of the London Borough of Lewisham attended a rally at the war memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital, on Lewisham High Street, at 1pm on Thursday February 15, to tell the government and senior NHS management that they — we — will continue to campaign to save Lewisham Hospital from the plans to severely downgrade its services and to sell off 60 percent of its buildings, which were approved two weeks ago by the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The proposals were put forward in October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator charged with finding solutions to the financial problems of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which was placed in administration in the summer. Under those plans, Lewisham’s A&E Department will close, replaced by an Urgent Care Unit, which cannot deal with emergencies, and this will have a severe impact on the hospital’s ability to survive. There will no longer be an intensive care unit, other acute services will be shut, and, according to Hunt, just 10 percent of the 4,400 Lewisham mothers who give birth in Lewisham every year will be able to do so in future, as any birth that carries a risk of complications will have to take place elsewhere.

As the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign has successfully pointed out over the last four months, it is unjust for Lewisham — a financially viable hospital — to be sacrificed to address the financial problems of a neighbouring trust, which is seriously in debt, in part because of monstrous PFI repayments. However, it is also unacceptable for tens of thousands of emergencies to have to be dealt with elsewhere, when there is no spare capacity, just as it is unacceptable that 4,000 mothers will also have to travel elsewhere, to hospitals that have no room for them.

Speaking at the event — and introducing the speakers — was Dr. Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, who has provided inspirational leadership since Kershaw’s proposals were announced at the end of October. She dismissed Hunt’s supposed concession two weeks ago — that some aspects of A&E would continue at Lewisham — as a lie that it took two minutes to see through (even though some parts of the mainstream media took it at face value), and urged everyone to continue to use Lewisham Hospital, and to celebrate it, so that it can continue to thrive in the face of adversity. She also pointed out that there will be another big event soon, “Born in Lewisham,” to follow up on the massive protests in November last year and on January 26, when 25,000 people marched in support of the hospital. See my photos here, here and here.

The East London Lines blog described Dr. Irvine’s points as follows: “Going forward, there are four aspects to our campaign to change this decision: supporting hospital staff with our new slogan ‘use it don’t lose it’, a public campaign against the government, as this is something that can change with an election, rallies and stalls to keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds, and finally, we are applying for judicial review.”

As was also mentioned at the rally — by Lewisham’s Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock — Lewisham Council is preparing to launch a judicial appeal into the legality of the proposals approved by Jeremy Hunt, which, it seems to me, and to many others involved in the campaign, is a thoroughly legitimate complaint. Dr. Jane Fryer, the medical director of NHS South East London, admitted at a meeting I attended in Lewisham in December that the plans for Lewisham were part of the NHS management’s plans to butcher Lewisham Hospital as part of a reorganisation of hospitals in south east London, but that, of course, is not the mandate under which Matthew Kershaw and his advisers — including Dr. Fryer, Dr. Mike Marriman, the medical director of King’s, and Dr. Andy Mitchell, the medical director for the whole of the NHS in London  — were operating, which, very specifically, was the “unsustainable providers” legislation that was supposed to deal solely with the problems of the South London Healthcare Trust.

The Lewisham event on February 15 was part of the launch week of “Defend London’s NHS,” an umbrella organisation dedicated to saving NHS services  — and hospitals — across the whole of London. I wrote about that campaign here and here, and will soon be publishing my report about the launch in the House of Commons on Monday, which threw down a gauntlet to the government, to senior NHS management who have forgotten what the NHS is for, and to the people of London — and more widely, in Britain as a whole — who also need to recall the words of Nye Bevan, the health minister at the time of the founding of the NHS in 1948: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

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.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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