Save Lewisham Hospital: Please Get Involved in “Justice for Lewisham Week,” June 29 to July 5, 2013

Next week (from June 29 to July 5) is “Justice for Lewisham Week” in the London Borough of Lewisham, where the hospital that serves the 270,000 inhabitants has been under threat since last October, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, through legislation known as the Unsustainable Provider Regime, decided that one way of doing so would be to severely downgrade services at Lewisham (unconnected to the SLHT except by geographical proximity), shutting its A&E Department and axing 90 percent of maternity services along with all acute services.

At the end of January, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, approved the recommendations, but the people of Lewisham — myself included — refused to give up. Campaigning has continued relentlessly, and two judicial reviews were launched in response — one launched by Lewisham Council, and another by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. £20,000 was needed for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s judicial review, which was raised by supporters of the hospital, including Millwall F.C. and other people (including 6,000 supporters of the campaigning group 38 Degrees) who understand that Lewisham is a test case for what the would-be butchers of the NHS can get away with (both in the NHS’s own senior management, and in government).

The judicial reviews will be taking place in the High Court in London from Tuesday July 2 to Thursday July 4, and the campaign is calling for people from the community to attend the hearing each day, and also for a big group of people to be there at the start of the proceedings on the morning of July 2nd. Please email Dagmar to sign up. Read the rest of this entry »

Save Lewisham Hospital: Legal Challenge Goes Ahead, Plus New Actions Confirmed

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 »

Photos: Save Lewisham Hospital Rally, February 15, 2013

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Tories Endorse NHS Proposals to Disembowel Lewisham Hospital

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 »

Save Lewisham Hospital from Tory Destruction: Huge Rally on Saturday, Public Meeting Next Wednesday

Please sign the petition to save Lewisham’s A&E and maternity services and send it on to your friends and family. Over 16,000 people have already signed!

And here are the crucial dates for your diary:

This Saturday, November 24, “Hands Around Our Hospital” is a major march and rally in Lewisham, with the intention of attracting at least 5,000 protestors to show the government that the people of Lewisham will not accept plans to close the A&E Department and downgrade maternity services to pay for debts elsewhere in the NHS. Meet at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2pm, and link hands around the hospital at 3pm. Afterwards there will be a rally in Ladywell Fields, with speakers including local GP, Dr. Louise Irvine, Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, and other health workers and patients. If you want to help, see here.

Next Wednesday, November 28, there is a Public Meeting at Catford Broadway Theatre, at 7pm, with speakers including Dr. Louise Irvine and Dr. John Lister, who featured prominently in “Wake Up Call,” a film by Anne-Marie Sweeney, produced last year for Keep Our NHS Public and Health Emergency. Read the rest of this entry »

Lewisham Residents Rally to Save Hospital from Tory Butchers

Please sign the petition to save Lewisham’s A&E and maternity services and send it on to your friends and family!

Residents of the London Borough of Lewisham turned up in force for a public meeting yesterday evening in Lewisham Hospital, to show their opposition to the plans, announced last week, to close the hospital’s A&E (Accident and Emergency) Department and to cut maternity services and other clinical functions. Although Lewisham NHS Trust is financially healthy, a special administrator appointed by the government is making Lewisham pay for the problems of a neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which was declared bankrupt in summer, largely as a result of horrendous PFI contracts.

The South London Healthcare Trust runs — or ran — Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, and under the special administrator’s proposals, it will be broken up, with Lewisham downgraded through no fault of its own trust, and just one A&E Department — in Woolwich — serving the 750,000 inhabitants of the three boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley.

The situation could hardly be more urgent. If the proposals put forward by the special administrator, Matthew Kershaw, are not defeated by pressure from NHS professionals, lawyers, activists and the residents of Lewisham within the next five weeks (by December 13), the Tories’ new NHS butcher, the sleaze-drenched slimeball Jeremy Hunt (who took over from Andrew Lansley, the discredited architect of the NHS privatisation bill that was approved by Parliament in March this year), will approve the plans in the new year, and Lewisham’s slow death will begin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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