Lewisham residents were left ‘shocked’, ‘disgusted’ and ‘appalled’ yesterday, after being told their A&E will be cut by a quarter and the maternity unit will be led by mid-wives, despite tireless campaigning to save the hospital.
In response, a rally was organised outside Lewisham Hospital’s main entrance, within just four hours after the statement by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. The rally brought together Dame Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford, Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, consultants Dr John O’Donohue and Dr Tony O’Sullivan, and local rapper Question, who performed part of his song written for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.
Sir Steve promised to wage a legal war against Hunt if the consultation process, used by trust special administrator Matthew Kershaw, who put forward the proposals, is found to be in anyway illegal. Kershaw was appointed by Hunt in July 2012 to help solve the South London NHS Healthcare Trust’s deficit of £65m.
Sir Steve said: “This isn’t over. We cannot let this government get away with closures. This hospital is too important. What we heard this morning was just a little bit of bluster from the minister, pretending that he had listened.
“We at the council have got to use our resources to try and find a way to legally challenge this. We believe he (Hunt) doesn’t have the power to do this and we will challenge that.”
Dame Joan spoke on behalf of the ‘three Lewisham MPs’ and told the hundreds gathered that they would have been stripped of an emergency department completely if it hadn’t been for their campaigns.
She said of the announcement: “It was a shambles and an absolute sham. It was an insult to our intelligence to suggest that we can make do with a reduced A&E. The only reason there is any A&E left in Lewisham is because of your campaign.”
The implications of Hunt’s decision to reduce services in these areas will be that all high-risk births will have to be re-directed to other hospitals in the area, such as King’s College Hospital and Queen Elizabeth, and major traumas would also have to be directed away from Lewisham Hospital.
Leah, a Lewisham resident, is a regular service user at Lewisham Hospital. She said: “I was born in Lewisham and I have epilepsy. Many a time I’ve had to rely on paramedics after having fits.
“One time I smashed up my face after a fit, and I had an air ambulance take me to the hospital. The A&E here has always been at the heart of the hospital. There are so many sick people, elderly people, disabled people and children in the borough who need to use the services there.”
Labour councillor Alan Hall said he thought that Hunt was covering for the fact that he had ‘down graded’ the hospital by letting them keep some of their A&E. “They’ve just down-graded the A&E really. It’s more spin than substance. Lewisham Hospital will never be the same after this. We are looking to seek further legal advice, to see if we can push for a judicial review.”
The overwhelming message from speakers, campaigners and residents was that the fight to save their services will not end now the decision has been announced.
The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign are going to hold a lunchtime rally on Friday, February 15, as part of a London wide week of action to save services from being cut in the NHS. Click here for more information on upcoming campaign events.