Marching to protect our local NHS

Some of the marchers in Lewisham on Saturday November 24th

Despite the driving rain, an estimated 15,000 people marched through Lewisham last Saturday to express concern about the Trust Special Administrator’s proposals for hospitals in south-east London. Along with many other people from Greenwich, I was proud to be among them.

Four months after our local hospitals were placed in administration, plans were announced earlier this month for sweeping changes in services, including the downgrading of the Accident and Emergency department at Lewisham – which is, for many people in Blackheath, seen as their local hospital just as much as Queen Elizabeth Hospital is.

One young marcher braves the rain

While Labour welcomes the proposal to write off the excess costs of the Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley, we are concerned that downgrading the A&E department at Lewisham to an
“Urgent Care” unit will place too much pressure on the A&E departments in Woolwich and other hospitals.

While there would still be a 24-hour unit at Lewisham, which could deal with 70% of current A and E cases, the most serious emergency cases would have to got to Woolwich, Bromley, or other hospitals such as Kings or St Thomas’s.

The former South London Healthcare Trust will be dismantled, and Lewisham and QEH hospitals united under a new organisation.

The special administrator also recommends that Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup should become a “Bexley Health Campus” providing day surgery, endoscopy and radiotherapy. The scale of the cuts required is huge, and Labour is also asking about how maternity services will be protected (Lewisham could lose its consultant-led maternity services, meaning fewer babies could be born there), and that nurses’ and doctors’ jobs are protected.

There has been much talk of the PFI at Queen Elizabeth Hospital – which was signed by a Labour Government, though first conceived by the John Major administration in the mid -1990s. Labour accepts that the PFI certainly has been a factor behind the Trust’s financial problems – though certainly not the only one.

In fact only about a third of the NHS deficit in South London is down to the PFI. In 2009 Labour came up with a plan, called A Picture of Health, which was implemented late and incomplete by the current government. If implemented properly, it could have given all the hospitals a sustainable future – without Lewisham losing its Accident and Emergency department.

Consultation on the proposals runs until December 13th, and details can be found at It is very important that the Administrator hears everyone’s views before making recommendations to the Secretary of State in the New Year.

To join Labour’s campaign to save our local NHS, and to sign our Greenwich NHS Charter, go to

The message from thousands of people last Saturday was loud and clear: accessible, high-quality NHS services, free at the point of use, must be maintained, and saving money should not put anyone’s health at risk.


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