Picket planned for BBC Question Time as final proposals to close Lewisham’s A&E and maternity units are released

Angry residents are planning to picket the filming of BBC’s Question Time at Goldsmiths this Thursday, in protest against proposals which have raised concerns that “no hospital is safe.”

Members of the Lewisham branch of Keep Our NHS Public have organised a rally outside the university building to demonstrate against the Trust Special Administrator’s final report on the future of the borough’s hospital, which was released on Tuesday. The report advocates closing Lewisham’s A&E unit and replacing it with an urgent care centre.

Matthew Kershaw was appointed as Trust Special Administrator on July 16 2012 to resolve the South London Healthcare Trust’s mounting debt of £65m. Even though Lewisham Hospital is financially solvent, the hospital’s A&E unit was selected for closure as part of his draft recommendations. The decision of whether to implement Kershaw’s final proposals is now with Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state, who is expected to announce his plans on February 1.

The report controversially acknowledges that 96% of Lewisham residents opposed the recommendation during the consultation process, but still advocates that the A&E be turned into an urgent care centre. Kershaw’s response justifies this decision by arguing that whilst opposition was high, no one offered an alternative solution.

In the TSA’s response to the report, he said: “Significantly though, neither through the extensive consultation responses nor via all the work that has been done have any viable alternative solutions or proposals been put forward to solve the challenges faced by SLHT.

“I have said consistently that the status quo is not an option, and I believe these final, refined recommendations are the right ones, although I appreciate that some people will find them difficult to accept. I do believe that if implemented fully they will help deliver safe, high quality, affordable and sustainable services for the people of south-east London into the future.”

Kershaw’s final recommendations would also see maternity services at Lewisham Hospital reduced to become one of five midwifery-led birthing units.

Dr John O’Donohue, a consultant gastroenterologist at Lewisham Hospital, said that members of staff at the hospital were angry and disappointed at Kershaw’s decision to ignore widespread opposition from the borough.

“We’re very taken aback and very disappointed. If you go through the checks; does the report have public support? No, and that was demonstrated by a 15,000 strong march. Does it have support from GPs? No, GPs are unanimously against it. Is there clinical evidence to support it? No, all the expert groups, GPs, intensive care doctors and surgeons, have all been unanimous in their view of how harmful this would be to the healthcare of people in Lewisham.

“People will have to travel further to receive care from alternative A&Es, which are already overcrowded. We are really concerned this will lead to a significant worsening of healthcare in Lewisham. This also affects areas outside of Lewisham; it’s a national issue. This is the first time an administrator for South London Healthcare has bizarrely chosen to take services away from a hospital that is solvent and successful. If that’s going to go on then no successful hospital is safe.”

During the consultation period, which ran from November 2 to December 13 2012, consultants, residents and hospital workers took part in a candle lit vigil, protested across the borough and handed in a petition with over 30,000 signatures to David Cameron at Downing Street. The TSA’s seven recommendations had also come under fire, after Lewisham Hospital underwent a £12million refurbishment in April.

Lewisham KONP and other organisations are now formulating a response to these recommendations. Helmut Heib, secretary of Lewisham KONP said: “The immediate response as joint secretary of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is simply that we will intensify our opposition and up the ante at every available opportunity in order to save Lewisham Hospital.”

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