Protest against hospital closure

Lewisham Hospital: 15,000 march against closure plan

Campaigners said they’d been expecting about 15,000 people to march

At least 15,000 people have marched in protest against proposals to shut services at a hospital in south London.

Organisers campaigning to save lots of Lewisham Hospital say the plans are “crazy and ill thought out”.

Under proposals, its A&E will close and the maternity unit be downgraded after neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust ran up debts of £150m.

The government said “doing nothing seriously isn’t an option” and is to choose on 1 February.

Campaigners are angry Lewisham Hospital, which isn’t a part of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, is being targeted in a re-organisation of services around the area following the trusts’s financial problems.

Under the plans, the trust’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital site in Woolwich would come along side Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust to create a brand new organisation.

Lewisham’s A&E unit would then be downgraded to an urgent care centre, meaning emergency cases will be seen at nearby hospitals. The maternity unit at Lewisham may be slimmed down, meaning complex cases could be treated elsewhere.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs three hospitals, was placed in administration last year when it started losing about £1.3m per week.

The problems it faces don’t seem to be unique. Last year it was reported 20 trusts had declared themselves financially unsustainable of their current form.

Lewisham Hospital isn’t always portion of South London Healthcare NHS Trust

Matthew Kershaw, a unique administrator, said in a report back to the govt that the trust ought to be broken up, with other organisations taking up the management and delivery of services.

If implemented fully, Mr Kershaw said his recommendations would set off an intensive overhaul of services in south London, and help deliver “safe, high-quality, affordable and sustainable services.”

Mr Kershaw also recommended the dept of Health (DoH) write off any debts to confirm new organisations weren’t “saddled with the problems of the past”.

“i’ve said consistently that the established order just isn’t an option, and that i believe these final, refined recommendations are the appropriate ones, although I appreciate that some people will find them difficult to just accept,” his report said.

‘Huge clinical risks’

In November thousands of folk marched in protest on the plans and BBC London reporter Matt Morris said a minimum of 15,000 attended Saturday’s event. The Save Lewisham Hospital group claims as much as 25,000 took part.

Dr Louise Irvine, a native GP and chairman of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said: “This decision is crazy and ill thought out.

“It’s a big mistake and carries huge clinical risks of factors going wrong for patients but additionally political risk.

“If Jeremy Hunt can close an even local hospital here, he can do it anywhere within the country – nowhere is safe.”

A DoH spokesman said: “Where trusts face long-standing problems we now have been clear that doing nothing is not very an option.”

The march went past Lewisham Hospital and ended with a festival in nearby Mountsfield Park.