Lewisham A&E saved from severe cuts after years of local campaigning

Protesters at the front of the march in November Pic: Lautel Okhio

Save Lewisham Hospital campaigners in a protest last year.
Credit: Lautel Okhio

Lewisham Hospital A&E has been spared from severe cuts that would have crippled frontline services after being the centre of a judicial review earlier this year.

In a letter to Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust released on Monday, the Clinical Commissioning Group said they “expect to need all of South East London’s A&E departments” and pledged to build up NHS trusts in the area.

Concerns were raised over the future of the department after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wanted to replace it with an urgent care centre in 2013.

The Save Lewisham Hospital (SLH) campaign, chaired by local GP Dr Louise Irvine, set up a petition to lobby against Mr Hunt’s plans to downsize.

It garnered 1844 signatures and grabbed the attention of both local MPs and activists.

Dr Louise Irvine said: “We are delighted with this firm commitment to Lewisham A&E from the commissioners.

“We want Lewisham Hospital to continue to successfully provide vital services to our community.”

Campaigners welcomed the news on Monday but warned that they will “remain very active and on alert” in the fight to protect local NHS services.

In a statement on their website, the campaigners said: “This is excellent news for the trust, for the 6,000 staff and for our Save Lewisham Hospital campaign which has united our local community over the last three years to defend our NHS services.”

The campaign was launched in 2012 after concerns were raised that pressure from NHS England on commissioning groups to make £1.1 billion in savings annually could jeopardise services at the hospital.

The Special Trust Administrator proposed “streamlining” the Lewisham Trust by disposing of the A&E, Maternity and children’s wards, alongside many other services.

Both previous attempts to shut the department were defeated by strong local campaigns.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, who backed the petition in local elections alongside MP Vicky Foxcroft, sarid: “This is really welcome news and I’m pleased commissioners have recognised the vitally important role performed by Lewisham’s A&E.

“As we head into the winter months though, we know that hospital deficits across the country are ballooning.

“Government ministers need to get their heads out of the sand and come up with an urgent plan to properly fund both the NHS and the care system”

Recent NHS performance statistics released this month show that A&E attendance is up by 1.2%, despite a below average appointment time of 86.6% (national target is 95%).

Campaigner and consultant paediatrician at Lewisham and Greenwich hospital Dr Tony Sullivan said: “We are extremely happy about this week’s statement because it clarifies the importance of local A&E departments at a time when our population is increasing.

“This is really great news for Lewisham but there are still some very serious threats ahead to the NHS both locally and nationally from this current government.”

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