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 note: Although I took an optimistic tone in this article, the truth is that the revised regulations are still toxic for the NHS, and intended to usher in the wholesale privatisation of NHS services through legal means. Please see this article — and photos from a lobby of Parliament on March 26 — for further details, and please get involved to save the NHS.
Life under the Tories is so miserable, and the assaults on the very fabric of British life so unrelenting, that it’s rare for a ray of sunlight to shine through.
Yesterday, however, NHS campaigners secured victory in a campaign to prevent the stealthy passage of legislation designed to enforce competition on almost all aspects of NHS business, largely as a result of pressure exerted by members of the public. Just two weeks ago, campaigners began setting off alarm bells across the internet — by email, on websites, and via social media — about regulations relating to section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act, which the government hoped would pass stealthily, without debate, and which, in the words of the campaigning group 38 Degrees, “would force local doctors to open up almost all NHS services to private companies,” breaking cast-iron promises made by the government when the bill was passed, without which it would have been derailed.
The quote from 38 Degrees comes from the petition that was launched last Monday, February 25, which currently has nearly 250,000 signatures, and which secured nearly 120,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.
As the Guardian reported yesterday, however, “Ministers have been forced into a humiliating climbdown on plans for more private sector involvement in the NHS just four weeks before they were due to come into effect.” 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 »
UPDATE 7.30pm, Feb. 25: The campaigning group 38 Degrees has now launched its own official petition calling for a debate on the provisions for implementing enforced competition in almost all NHS services, which the Tories had been hoping would pass in a month’s time without even being noticed. There appear to be no depths to which these butchers of the state will not sink. Please sign this and share it as widely as you can. It already has nearly 20,000 signatures, and the target is 60,000 by the end of today. Note: This petition is in addition to the one launched by Charles West, mentioned below.
Where is the outrage in the mainstream media?
For the past week I have been receiving messages via email or on Facebook from concerned friends and/or organisations warning me that the government is sneakily pushing through new legislation which will force all Clinical Commissioning Groups — the GP-led practices, which, from April, will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget — to go through a marketplace for all new NHS service contracts.
As the campaigning group 38 Degrees explains in an urgent new petition, regulations relating to section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act (Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation bill, which was passed last year) “require virtually all health provision to be carried out in competitive markets, regardless of the wishes of either local people, GPs or local Clinical Commissioning Groups. They contradict assurances that were given by health ministers during the passage of the Act that it did not mean the privatisation of the NHS, and that local people would have the final say in who provided their NHS.”
The silence in most of the mainstream media regarding these plans — in the BBC, for example — has been deafening, although today, the Daily Mirror has become involved, with an article entitled, “Tories’ hidden privatisation plan revealed,” and on Friday, in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee’s contribution was an informative article entitled, “The Lib Dems must not stand for any more lies over the NHS,” in which she noted how NHS dissent over the Health and Social Care Act was only quelled through public assurances from ministers that there would be no enforced privatisation of services, which “seemed convincingly cast-iron.” 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 »
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 »
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