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.

The council describes its legal challenge (which I wrote about here) as follows:

The grounds for our challenge are simple — that the decisions are beyond the powers set out in the Unsustainable Provider Regime. The UPR confers powers on a Trust Special Administrator and on the Secretary of State respectively to make recommendations, and to take action, about the NHS Trust to which the TSA has been appointed, in this case the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. It confers no powers to take action about and NHS Trust, such as Lewisham Healthcare, to which a TSA has not been appointed.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s related legal challenge, which I wrote about here, focuses specifically on four tests that were supposed to have been satisfied for the recommendations to be approved. These are as follows (along with the campaign’s responses):

  1. A Clinical evidence base underpinning the proposals. The campaign has presented evidence showing that “the clinical evidence in the TSA report is flawed.”
  2. The changes have the support of the GP commissioners involved. “Significantly,” the campaign notes, “110/140 GPs have signed a petition against the reforms.”
  3. They must genuinely promote choice for their patients. The campaign has provided evidence that challenges this claim.
  4. The public, patients and local authorities have been genuinely engaged. As the campaign notes, “Local opinion is clearly against these recommendations with at least 32,000 local people signing a petition, as well as in the region of 15,000 taking to the streets in the largest local protest demonstration of its kind in decades [followed by 25,000 in January this year]. The local authority has also formally made its opposition clear.”

As Rosa Curling from the law firm Leigh Day, representing the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, explained:

We have advised our client that the decision taken by Mr. Hunt to substantially cut services at Lewisham Hospital is unlawful. The consultation process which took place about the proposals was flawed, the four tests Mr. Hunt confirmed would have to be satisfied before any reconfiguration proposals could proceed have not been met, and the Secretary of State has misunderstood his own legal powers.

We have written to the Secretary of State setting out the basis of our client’s case but to date, he has chosen not to respond. Our client has no option therefore but to issue proceedings and to request that the Court urgently intervene. The campaign is asking the Court to declare Mr. Hunt’s decision unlawful and to quash it, so Mr. Hunt can reconsider.

As well as calling on people to attend the hearings from July 2 to July 4, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign has also organised a wonderful and unique all-day event in Catford on Saturday June 29, the Lewisham People’s Commission of Inquiry, details of which are below:

Lewisham People’s Commission of Inquiry
Saturday June 29, 2013, 9.30am to 5.30pm, Broadway Theatre, Catford, London SE6 4RU.
Chaired by Michael Mansfield QC and including Baroness Warnock, the author Blake Morrison, Lord David Owen and Lewisham’s Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock.

At the start of “Justice for Lewisham Week,” the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is holding a Commission of Inquiry into government plans to downgrade Lewisham Hospital, asking, “Why is the government planning to downgrade Lewisham Hospital and even sell it off to private companies?” and “How do plans for Lewisham link to the government’s overall plans for the NHS?”

The Commission will examine three particular issues:

  1. The original vision and principles underpinning the NHS, with particular reference to the community it serves and its accountability to that community.
  2. The extent to which the vision and principles have been eroded by the imposition of the internal market and recent moves to open the NHS to external market forces and the degree to which these changes have been openly debated.
  3. The extent to which this process has culminated in the potential destruction of quality healthcare for the community of Lewisham and South East London, exemplified by the proposals for Lewisham Hospital.

To book a place sign up at the foot of the page on the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign website. A 50p donation will be asked for on the day.

As noted above, the panel will be chaired by Michael Mansfield QC, and will include Baroness Warnock and the award-winning Lewisham-based author and journalist Blake Morrison, and the Commission will hear evidence that has been denied by Special Administrator Kershaw and Minister of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. Lord David Owen and Mayor Sir Steve Bullock will address the Commission.

Evidence from the following will also be presented to the panel: Professor Colin Leys and Professor Allyson Pollock about privatisation and the role of PFIs in the NHS; leading GPs, hospital clinicians and nurses; patients and patient representatives; representatives of the council and local businesses; and church and community representatives.

The day after, Friday July 5, is the 65th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, and there will be a demonstration by the war memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital, from noon until 2pm.

See you there, hopefully!

Note: Please also mark Sunday September 29 in your diary, when the three biggest unions in the country — Unite, Unison and the GMB — “will be protesting against the accelerating sell-off of the NHS to profit-driven private healthcare companies at the Conservative party conference in Manchester,” as a press release by Unite describes it. Watch this space for further details.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Just a reminder, please like the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s Facebook page if you haven’t already:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Carol Brown wrote:

    Andy, thanks. I have copied and posted the pic from you into my status. Please say hi if you see me on Saturday, my visual memory is not great!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    I will indeed, Carol. Lovely to hear from you. I am very much hoping that the judicial reviews will find that Hunt (and the NHS) exceeded their mandate, not just for Lewisham but for the NHS as a whole. Saturday will be a good day of unity for us all, as well as providing us with a lot of extremely useful information.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I used to live between Honor Oak and Peckham – I can’t believe what the Cameron government is doing to close the Lewisham Hospital.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Willy, and fascinating that you used to live between Honor Oak and Peckham – just down the road from me! The real horror of all this is that it’s not just the government, and it’s not just Lewisham facing the axe. Senior NHS managers, accepting the call for massive cuts that started under the last Labour government, have persuaded themselves that we need to scale back the public’s reliance on hospitals, and that the way to do so is through greater community-based care. The problem is that this community-based care doesn’t exist – it’s nothing more than aspirational. Meanwhile, A&E, maternity and other acute services are all overstretched, but the NHS managers and the politicians either don’t notice or don’t care. The majority of the 270,000 inhabitants of Lewisham will have to go elsewhere for A&E, despite there being no room elsewhere, and 90 percent of the mothers in Lewisham won’t be able to give birth in their home borough. How is that acceptable, unless we were actually bankrupt, which of course we’re not? Austerity and the need for cuts only exist when the government wants them to.
    In Lewisham, we have a chance of beating the government and the NHS managers, because of their sneaky – and clearly unfair – attempts to sacrifice Lewisham while dealing with the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust. Elsewhere, however, savage hospital cuts are being openly presented as “rationalisation.” I wrote a while back about the planned cuts across London, in an article which also mentions proposed cuts across the UK:
    And this is a very good resource:

  6. Lewisham Mounts Legal Challenge To Jeremy Hunt 2 July 2013 | ukgovernmentwatch says...

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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