Hundreds of students, hospital workers, residents and union members gathered outside Goldsmiths last night ahead of BBC’s Question Time to protest against the Trust Special Administrator’s final report that advocates closing Lewisham A&E.
Helmut Heib, the secretary of Save Lewisham Hospital, led the crowd outside the Richard Hoggart Building in chants that included: “No ifs, no buts, no NHS cuts!” and “Save Lewisham Hospital, save the NHS!”
The suspended Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who appeared on the Question Time panel, stopped to talk to the protesters, telling them that the closure of Lewisham’s A&E was something “she didn’t know about”, until a member of the crowd informed her.
When questioned by audience members during the show about NHS cuts, specifically the closure of Lewisham A&E and maternity unit, Dorries said: “Tomorrow I will take these messages (from the protestors) back to Jeremy Hunt”.
The rally finished with a march around to the back of the building, which had been gated, led by Heib and other members of the Save Lewisham A&E campaign. Security guards had closed the doors of the main entrance, following calls from some protesters that the building be stormed.
Notably, there was a strong union presence at the demonstration. Tim Parkin of Unison’s Lewisham branch said: “There is no logic in this draft report. We’ve taken the trouble to go through it and expose where there are lies and assumptions. I’m a member of the local council branch, and we will be supporting this campaign until we have won. Unison nationally also supports this campaign.”
There was also a strong presence from Goldsmiths staff and students. The university publicly declared its support for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign in December 2012.
Tama White, student union welfare officer said: “We knew all the way through it was going to be a sham consultation. I don’t think they listened to anybody particularly, apart from the people who said that things needed cutting.
“If we reduce maternity services, babies are at risk of dying and mothers are at risk of dying. They’re not going to be able to get the care that they need if something does go wrong, and statistically they do go wrong in Lewisham.”
Nick Turner, of GMB Union said: “We support all the hospital workers fighting against these insane cuts – we’ll fight all the way.”
Tony Abse, lecturer in history at Goldsmiths said: “You’re taking services away from poor people, and putting services in the hands of greedy bankers. There is no reason why this country cannot afford a decent NHS.”
The final decision now rests with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is expected to decide whether the proposals should be implemented or not in February 2013. In the meantime, Save Lewisham Hospital have organised a further protest on January 26.
Other issues that were raised by the audience during Question Time included immigration, the decriminalization of illegal drugs, and gay marriage. The question of whether gay couples should be allowed to get married was vehemently discussed, with Nadine Dorries claiming that there was “not a lot of demand” for gay couple marriages.
In response to audience questions about why the Church of England is not allowed to conduct gay marriages, Dorries said that religious institutions should not be “forced” to do anything that made them uncomfortable.
Journalists from Eastlondonlines were backstage after the filming to talk with panel members, which included Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey, Lord Prescott, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, Big Issue founder and Goldsmiths Honorary Fellow John Bird and Associate Editor of The Times Camilla Cavendish.
If you missed the live show, you can catch-up on BBC iPlayer.