Hospitals merge to create new local NHS Trust

Lewisham Hospital. Pic: Juan Luis Passarelli

Lewisham Hospital. Pic: Juan Luis Passarelli

Lewisham Healthcare and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich have merged to be managed by the new Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT), that managed Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary’s Sidcup and Princess Royal in Bromley was dissolved following bankruptcy. The Government revealed in January that its debt amounted to £200m.

A number of positions, currently unknown, have been cut in the process.

A spokesperson for NHS Trust Development Authority, the organisation that supports and oversees NHS Trusts, confirmed that the new Trust would not be saddled with Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s debt. They said: “The cancellation of the debt is one of the main reasons behind this merger.”

They also said that the jobs cut in the process were “management positions, not frontline clinical jobs,” and that the “vast majority of the 6,000 SLHT staff would continue to work in the hospital as before.”

In a joint statement, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Chair Elizabeth Butler and CEO Tim Higginson said that the ongoing legal processes regarding Lewisham A&E would have no effect on the merger.

“There is a clear distinction between the two and many benefits to Lewisham Healthcare and Queen Elizabeth Hospital coming together as one organisation.”

Save Lewisham Hospital campaign organiser Jos Bell said: “Hospitals which are deemed to be too small to qualify for the compulsory Foundation Trust status are at risk of being taken over by private companies and the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign is very clear that we want our all of SE London’s hospital services to remain within the NHS.

“That having been said, we are of course concerned that any merger may entail job losses” – although it appears that the reductio in staff were written into the arrangements”

A spokesperson for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said that despite the merger, both hospitals would have “business as usual” and that all patients previously receiving care at either hospital would keep receiving it ordinarily.

The website of the new Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust explains that “Lewisham Healthcare and Queen Elizabeth Hospital serve similar communities and have much in common in terms of what [they] do.

“By building on strengths of teams in Lewisham and Greenwich we can create an outstanding Trust.”

Bell added: “Overall, along with Lewisham Council, we will continue to fight for the retention of the services we have so far managed to protect from closure in Lewisham and also hope that the people of Woolwich, Bexley and Greenwich will benefit from keeping sufficient hospital provision across all the boroughs, to serve our joint needs.”

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust was formed on October 1. Following the dissolution of SLHT, Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley was transferred to King’s College Hospital NHS Trust, and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup was transferred to Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign will be in the Appeal Court on October 28 and 29 as Jeremy Hunt has appealed the High Court’s decision not to close Lewisham Hospital A&E.

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