The public consultation process on the fate of Lewisham Hospital was roundly condemned at a meeting yesterday.
The meeting was held at Goldsmiths University as part of a month-long consultation by Matthew Kershaw, special administrator for South London Healthcare NHS Trust, before making final recommendations on proposed cuts to the facility.
The hospital was barely mentioned in the 10 minute long informational video shown at the beginning of the meeting, though concerns about its A&E and maternity services were a main point of discussion.
Attendees at the meeting dismissed it as ‘window-dressing’, and said a ‘backdoor approach to the consultation’ was being taken. Kershaw responded that the trust was “not taking a backdoor approach to reconfiguration, we are being very explicit in this report”.
Concerns were raised over yesterday’s appointment of Tim Higginson as head of a joint organisation encompassing Lewisham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.
The organisations are currently separate but the draft report by the TSA recommends closing part of Lewisham to merge with the QEH.
At the meeting Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford, said: “The reconfiguration of the NHS is quite different to the process you have outlined. Even if there is merit in Lewisham and Woolwich being merged, this is not the process”.
Attendees stated that such decisive action during a consultation period supported their belief the process was meaningless.
Kershaw, however, claimed Higginson will only work “in planning terms…to ascertain how the recommendations will work if they are in place”.
Further highlighting problems in the consultation process, Lewisham resident Gloria Brown said: “This does not represent Lewisham High Street or Deptford High Street. I feel this consultation has excluded black and minority ethnic people”.
Panel member Stephanie Hood replied: “We are doing a lot of work with community groups, we have worked with LGBT groups, pensioners’ groups and Mencap (a leading learning disability charity),” though none of these solely represent the ethnicities Brown felt were underrepresented.
Opponents of the proposals to close Lewisham A&E and maternity units are planning a demonstration to “hold hands around our hospital” on November 24.