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 »
Wednesday April 24 may be the day that the NHS dies — or that it lives on. On April 1, largely unnoticed by the people of England, the most popular institution in the land, the NHS (the National Health Service), was privatised by the Tory-led government, in regulations relating to Article 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, which force competition on almost all NHS business.
If they are not reversed, the regulations will lead to private companies swiftly and effectively dismantling the NHS, 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.
This is a disaster of colossal proportions, and yet it has barely been reported by the mainstream media, although medical websites and blogs, and campaigners — myself included — have been covering it since the regulations first surfaced in February.
On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords has a historic opportunity to derail the regulations. Please email members of the House of Lords today or tomorrow to urge them to vote against the regulations. The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign has put together a detailed list of Lords here, including details of how to contact them by email. If an email is not listed, click on the peer’s name to go to their website, where emails are listed, as well as phone numbers — which is another good way of getting in touch with them, with less than 48 hours to go. 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 »
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. 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 »
In the end, then, the massive grassroots struggle to save Lewisham Hospital from government-backed destruction on the advice of the NHS’s own senior officials — which led to two massive demos, in November, and last weekend (see here and here) — proved not to be an end in itself, but just the beginning of a larger battle.
Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, broadly approved the proposals to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department, replacing it with an “urgent care centre,” unable to deal with emergencies, and have other frontline services, including its maternity services, severely downgraded. The proposals were put forward just three months ago by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed last summer by the former health secretary Andrew Lansley to deal with the bankrupt South London Healthcare Trust, and his recommendations regarding Lewisham came as a shock and surprise to the 250,000 residents of the borough.
Their — our — surprise was understandable. After all, Kershaw had been appointed to make recommendations regarding the fate of the South London Healthcare Trust, based in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, and not Lewisham, which is an independent trust. In addition, the SLHT was crippled by PFI debt — which, incidentally, is so monstrously disproportionate that it should have been declared illegal — whereas Lewisham was solvent, but this apparently made no difference to the would-be butchers of NHS services. Read the rest of this entry »
So now we wait.
On Saturday, as this second set of my photos shows — following on from the first set here — around 25,000 people marched through Lewisham, in south east London, to a rally in Mountsfield Park in Catford, to deliver a powerful rebuke to senior NHS officials, and to the government.
In the first set, I focused on the initial gathering in the centre of Lewisham, and in this second set I photographed the march through the streets, past shoppers and car drivers earnestly honking their horns in support, past Lewisham Hospital, and on to Mountsfield Park in Catford, where there were speakers including Louise Irvine, a Deptford GP and the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Heidi Alexander MP, who introduced a successful petition to save Lewisham Hospital, which now has over 30,000 signatures.
There was also music, a number of food stalls and a giant petition, and it felt, just for a few hours, as though a velvet revolution was beginning. It is certainly true that only huge numbers — like the numbers seen on Saturday — can genuinely alarm those in power, but it remains to be seen, of course, if such numbers can be mobilised again, not just for Lewisham, but across London, and throughout England as a whole, as the long years of this wretched coalition government — arrogant and cruel, to an extent that is almost beyond belief, and without a genuine mandate — continue to grind away at the very structure of civil society, hurling more and more of the most vulnerable members of society into genuinely alarming poverty, while continuing to destroy Britain economically, and doing nothing for anyone except the rich and the super-rich — the bankers, corporations and individuals who got us into financial difficulties in the first place, and who continue to avoid paying taxes on a colossal scale. Read the rest of this entry »
Save Lewisham Hospital: The Huge March on January 26, 2013, a set on Flickr.
On January 26, 2013, in Lewisham, in south east London, I took these photos of an extraordinary demonstration, in which an estimated 25,000 people marched from the centre of Lewisham, past Lewisham Hospital and up George Lane to Mountsfield Park in Catford to save Lewisham Hospital from having its A&E Department closed, and other services severely downgraded, including its maternity services.
It was one of the most exhilarating protests I have ever taken part in, a worthy successor to the one in the driving rain on November 24, when around 15,000 people showed up, providing the first thrilling indication that, in attacking the NHS in Lewisham, the government and the wrecking crew in the NHS’s management had sparked a movement of resistance that was spreading like wildfire throughout the borough and beyond. Yesterday, it felt like a continuation of that initial impulse — that something had been sparked which was finally waking people up to the understanding that, although politicians and bureaucrats wield often considerable power, and generally show disdain for us, in the end we are many and they are few. Read the rest of this entry »
Please come to the demonstration to save Lewisham Hospital this Saturday (January 26), and please also send health secretary Jeremy Hunt a quick email, via 38 Degrees, to ask him to save the hospital.
This Saturday, January 26, a huge protest is taking place in the London Borough of Lewisham, in south east London, in a last show of outrage before Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, makes a decision about whether or not to close Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department — leaving just one A&E, out in Woolwich, for the 750,000 people in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley — as advised by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed by Hunt’s predecessor, Andrew Lansley, to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust.
Those concerned by this devastating assault on NHS services for the 250,000 people of Lewisham are requested to meet at Loampit Vale roundabout at 12 noon, for a march past the hospital to Mountsfield Park, where there will be a rally, music and a giant petition! Please, please come along if you can!
We know, from the huge turnout for the march to save Lewisham Hospital on November 24 (see my photos here), that the people of Lewisham can show the government what resistance is, when they are provoked, as they have been by these wretched proposals. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out in the driving rain to oppose the plans to shut the hospital’s A&E Department, to cut other services, including intensive care and maternity services, and to sell off 60 percent of its buildings, leaving just the A&E Department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich to serve the needs of everyone in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley. Read the rest of this entry »
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