Please attend the march at 12 noon on Saturday May 18, 2013, from Jubilee Gardens (on Concert Hall Approach near the South Bank Centre) to Whitehall, where there will be a rally outside Downing Street at 2pm. The marchers will cross Waterloo Bridge and walk up The Strand to Whitehall, and NHS campaigners, politicians and union representatives will address the crowd from an open-topped bus. See the Facebook page here and the website here.
The irony could hardly be starker. Across London, and countrywide, cuts begun under the Labour government and aggressively continued under the Tories are wreaking havoc on the NHS. Nor it is only politicians who are to blame, as the cuts are enthusiastically endorsed by senior NHS officials.
As I have been reporting here since October, when plans to disembowel Lewisham Hospital were first announced, across the capital A&E Departments face closure or downgrading, even though the need for them has never been greater. In addition, the closure or downgrading of A&E will have a horrendous knock-on effect for the millions of people affected — as frontline services also close, and, to give just one example, maternity services are cut savagely, as only births regarded as safe can take place in hospitals without emergency services.
This is what is planned for Lewisham, where the recently refurbished A&E Department is to be closed, leaving just one A&E Department, at the distant and already overstretched Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, to deal with the 750,000 inhabitants of three London boroughs — Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — including, of course, babies and children as well as adults. Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords voted by 254 votes to 146 to dismiss a motion, proposed by the Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a shadow health minister, to prevent the passage of regulations relating to Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act (the Tories’ wretched legislation for NHS reform, passed last year), which was sprung on an unsuspecting public back in February.
The reason I call this the week that the NHS died is because the regulations enforce competition on almost all NHS business, paving the way for private companies to swiftly and effectively dismantle it, cherry-picking services they can easily make profits out of, and cowing the newly appointed Clinical Commissioning Groups (the GPs responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget), who will be afraid of ruinously expensive legal challenges if they dare to take on the private sector.
It is not strictly true, of course, that no one cares, but I stand by the necessity of such a provocative headline. In fact, a 38 Degrees petition was signed by over 360,000 people, but millions should have been on the streets since the Tories first announced their intentions to destroy the NHS. That, however, has never happened. On the night of the Section 75 motion last week, despite furious lobbying of peers, and some great speeches in support of the NHS (by Lords Hunt and Owen in particular), the last chance to block the legislation was lost. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, in the Houses of Parliament, a passionate and packed-out meeting took place in one of the House of Commons committee rooms, attended by well over a hundred campaigners for the NHS, at which MPs, doctors and activists spoke, and there were also intelligent contributions from the audience, as, collectively, we tried to work out how, in the short term, to resist the government’s latest plans to privatise the NHS, and, in the longer term, how to save the NHS and build a successful movement to oppose the whole of the wretched age of austerity imposed on us by the Tory-led coalition government for malignant ideological purposes; in short, in an effort to destroy the state provision of almost all services — with one exception, of course, being their salaries and expenses.
The spur for the meeting, and the rally outside that preceded it, is the government’s plan to push through privatisation of the NHS — despite explicit promises not to do so — through secondary legislation relating to Section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act that was passed last year, in which almost all NHS services will have to be put out to tender by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the groups of GPs who will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget from April 1.
Although 350,000 people recently signed a 38 Degrees petition opposing the plans (which I wrote about here), and Lib Dem minister Norman Lamb promised that the key regulations on competition in the NHS would be rewritten, the rewritten regulations have barely changed, and they still oblige the NHS to put almost all NHS services out to tender, allowing private companies to begin to devour the whole of the NHS or face legal challenges that they will probably lose, because enforced competition will have been made into a key component of the provision of NHS services. Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday, another high-profile event took place in the campaign to “Save Lewisham Hospital” from destruction by senior NHS managers and the government, with an event entitled, “Born in Lewisham,” in which campaigners showed their support for the hospital with a gathering outside the entrance on Lewisham High Street, and a rally afterwards in Ladywell Fields, with speakers, music and stalls.
The particular focus of the event was on people born in Lewisham Hospital, who were encouraged to show their support for the hospital by having their photos taken for a photo gallery (forthcoming on the Save Lewisham Hospital website) and carrying home-made placards or wearing T-shirts with personalised messages. Some of those photos are featured in this photo set, and the previous one which I posted on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
Born in Lewisham: The Protest to Save Lewisham Hospital, March 16, 2013, a set on Flickr.
On March 16, 2013, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign organised a protest and publicity event, entitled, “Born in Lewisham,” outside the endangered hospital — serving a population of 270,000 people — on Lewisham High Street.
The campaign was established in October 2012, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the financial problems of a neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust (based in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley), recommended that Lewisham Hospital — which is not part of the SLHT and has no financial problems — should merge with one of the SLHT’s hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, and should have its A&E Department closed and other frontline services — including maternity — severely downgraded. In Lewisham, this would mean tens of thousands of emergencies having to be dealt with elsewhere, as well as 90 percent of Lewisham’s mothers having to give birth outside the borough. Read the rest of this entry »
Please support the “Born in Lewisham Hospital” event on Saturday March 16, and, if you can, contribute to Lewisham Council’s Legal Challenge Fund to pay for the Judicial Review that has just been launched, to prove that the plans to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department and severely downgrade other services is illegal!
The struggle to save Lewisham Hospital from destruction continues, with undiminished energy, I’m glad to report. I have been a resident of Lewisham, in south east London, for the last 15 years, and I am proud of the creativity, commitment and clear-sighted indignation of my fellow residents campaigning against the wretched proposals to disembowel the hospital, conceived of, proposed and endorsed by both senior NHS officials and the government.
To recap briefly (although my archive of articles is here, and I also recommend the Save Lewisham Hospital website and Facebook page), at the end of October Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed by the former health secretary Andrew Lansley to deal with the financial problems of a neighbouring NHS trust (the South London Healthcare Trust, covering the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley) proposed that King’s (in Camberwell) should take over one of the SLHT’s hospitals, while another, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, on a remote, blasted heath in Woolwich, should merge with Lewisham.
Kershaw was the first administrator appointed under specific “unsustainable providers” legislation, of which there are many critics (myself included), who see that trusts may end up in debt for all kinds of reasons, including, as in the case of the SLHT) monstrous PFI deals that ought to have been illegal. However, there was at least a certain logic at work with regard to the proposals for King’s to take over one hospital, and for Lewisham to merge with Queen Elizabeth. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday’s news was expected, but it still hit hard. Last June, the Joint Committee of North West London Primary Care Trusts proposed the closure of four of the nine A&E Departments at hospitals in north west London, and on Tuesday, despite vigorous campaigns throughout the area against the proposals, the committee confirmed that, as the Evening Standard put it, “Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals will lose their A&Es permanently while Charing Cross and Ealing will be left with a downgraded urgent care centres which will not accept emergency patients.”
This really is an alarming development, as it will leave three of the eight boroughs in north west London — containing about three-quarters of a million people — without a major hospital, out of the 1.9 million people in the whole of north west London. In addition, removing hospitals’ ability to deal with emergencies essentially sounds the death knell for those hospitals, as a huge range of hospital services rely upon emergency admissions and the ability to deal with emergencies. In Lewisham, for example, where similar cuts have been approved, at least 90 percent of the mothers in the entire borough (4,400 a year) will no longer be able to give birth in Lewisham itself, despite it having the same population as Brighton, Hull or Newcastle.
Following the announcement about the north west London hospitals, Andy Slaughter, the MP for Hammersmith and the secretary of Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith and Fulham, said, “This is the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS. It will put lives at risk across West London and will give a second class health service to 2 million people.” He also stated, “There will be no A&E in the London boroughs of Hammersmith, Ealing or Brent, which together have a population the size of Leeds.” Read the rest of this entry »
Defend London’s NHS: A Week of Action, a set on Flickr.
Last week, from February 9 to 16, campaigners across London — in Lewisham, in Hammersmith, in Ealing, in Archway and in Kingston — who are fighting to save essential frontline services from the government (which is committed to the destruction of the NHS), and from senior NHS management (who have forgotten what the NHS is for), came together as ”Defend London’s NHS,” an unprecedented coalition of MPs, unions, campaigners, patients, doctors and other health workers.
In the inaugural week of action, there were events on Saturday February 9 outside Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital (between Brent and Ealing), which are two of the four A&E Departments (out of nine in total) that face the axe in north west London, along with the two hospitals in Hammersmith — Charing Cross and Hammersmith itself, and there were also protests and events throughout the week, culminating in a rally in Lewisham on Friday (see my photos here), and rallies in Hammersmith and Kingston on Saturday.
The Parliamentary launch of “Defend London’s NHS”
However, the week of action’s central event took place on Monday February 11, when “Defend London’s NHS” was launched in the House of Commons. At this event, the speakers, who included the doctors Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Onkar Sahota, the chair of the Ealing Save Our Hospitals campaign, and two MPs, Andy Slaughter and Heidi Alexander, were united in their recognition that the NHS currently faces an unparalleled threat, greater than at any other time in its 65-year history. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Update February 7: The “Born in Lewisham” event mentioned below will be taking place at a later date. Instead, Save Lewisham Hospital have another event organised for the week of action: a rally at the war memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital on Friday February 15 at 1pm, to which everyone is invited.
From February 9 to 16, a coalition of Londoners from all points of the compass are uniting for a Week of Action in defence of London’s NHS services — and in particular, a number of endangered A&E Departments. Defend London’s NHS describes itself as “a non-partisan, residents-led campaign group bringing together Londoners from Islington to Greenwich, from Ealing to Hackney and beyond.”
As the umbrella organisation’s press release explained, “An unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners has come together to raise the alarm regarding the biggest threats to A & E’s, maternity units and in-hospital care for a generation. The week-long actions will include protests, pickets, rallies, demonstrations, candle lit vigils, musical events and more.”
The organisers also noted, “Londoners have lobbied MPs to ensure that cross-party members of the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords participate in the Week of Action.”
On February 11, 2013, there will be a press conference, called by Defend London’s NHS and Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, at the Jubilee Room, House of Commons, from 10am to 11.45am, at which the full details of the threats to London’s NHS services — and the very existence of a number of hospitals — will be discussed. Read the rest of this entry »
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