Time to March again for the NHS

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As was feared, the Administrator in charge of our local hospitals since last autumn has now published his final recommendations for their future, without giving a reprieve to the accident and emergency department at Lewisham Hospital.

The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) has just issued his final report which apart from some minor changes is the same as his draft proposals published before Christmas (see www.tsa.nhs.uk/document-downloads).

Everyone is concerned that downgrading the A&E department at Lewisham to an “Urgent Care” unit will place too much pressure on the A&E departments at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, and other hospitals. This is a particular concern for areas like Blackheath, which regard Lewisham as their local hospital as much as QEH. The wisdom of this is even more questionable as millions of pounds have just been spent improving and expanding Lewisham’s A&E department.

Some people in the local media and blogosphere have said that Greenwich was half-hearted in its opposition to the downgrading of the A&E department at Lewisham. I don’t agree – many Labour members and councillors, as well as the council corporately and Nick Raynsford MP, replied to the consultation to say that they were opposed to any downgrading of Lewisham. I know many councillors and party members went to the consultation meetings held across the borough in November and December to make the point as well.

But politicians on their own will not make the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt think again about the proposals to cut services at Lewisham so deeply. A broad public campaign has sprung up to defend  Lewisham Hospital (see http://www.savelewishamhospital.com), which the Labour party is but one part of – and it is this sort of broad alternative coalition, with widespread public support, that holds out the best chance, as well as hard facts (such as new evidence that closing Lewisham’s A and E department could actually cost many rather than save it).

In November, 15,000 people thronged Lewisham Town centre despite the driving rain to show the anger of local people at these reckless cuts – many Labour councillors and members, me included, among them.

There is another march this coming Saturday, January 26th, assembling at Lewisham Roundabout (by the station) at 12 noon. There will then be a march past our hospital to Mountsfield Park for a rally, music and giant petition.

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5 Responses to Time to March again for the NHS

  1. Darryl says:

    Why didn’t Greenwich urge its residents to protest, then? If it can launch an “all-out” campaign for a third Blackwall Tunnel, it can do the same to protect our NHS, can’t it?

  2. Clare says:

    I’m glad you are supportive, but there’s no two ways about it, Greenwich Council itself was half-hearted in its response – you only had to compare the way Lewisham Council used its website to urge residents to respond to the consultation and to protest with Greenwich’s tiny news story pointing people towards the consultation website to see the obvious difference. And when you have people like Councillor Fahy saying the report wasn’t too bad, then I think criticism of Greenwich council is justified.

  3. Alex Grant says:

    Thanks to Darryl and Clare for your comments. However I don’t agree that either the council or the Labour Party in Greenwich have been half-hearted in their response to the NHS consultation, or our opposition to any downgrading of Lewisham Hospital.

    Among the 25,000 people marching in Lewisham on Saturday I recognised dozens of Labour Party members from Greenwich, alongside many hundreds (if not thousands) of Greenwich people of other political persuasions (and none). The Labour Party in Greenwich has been active for months – not just marching, but getting petitions signed, organising public meetings, and urging everyone in Greenwich to respond to the consultation on these damaging proposals.

    If you are using the number of times a topic is covered on the front page of Greenwich Time as an indication of its importance, please note that the NHS consultation featured twice on the front page (on November 6th and December 11th) – the same number as the “Bridge the Gap” consultation (December 4th and January 8th).

  4. Pingback: Great news about Lewisham Hospital – but what’s happening to GP services in Greenwich? | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  5. Pingback: Safe in their hands? Coalition changes law to make it easier to cut services at Lewisham Hospital | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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