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Newsletter January 2012 – Views from the hill
Save Lewisham Hospital
Many of you will have heard that the A&E and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital are under threat of closure. A community campaign to fight the proposed closure needs the help of residents to keep up pressure on the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who will make the decision on the future of the hospital at the beginning of February.
South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) was put into administration towards the end of last year because of debts of £150million. The Trust was set up in 2009 after the merger of three hospitals which had all been operating at a loss for some years: Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, Princess Roy
al in Orpington, and Queen Mary’s in Sidcup. Unfortunately, the merger did not solve the financial problems, and the total cumulative debt by the end of last year was estimated to be £356 million. The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) appointed by the Government proposed that the SLHT should be broken up and the three hospitals merged with neighbouring Trusts.
Given that Lewisham Hospital is not part of SLHT, why have cuts to the services it provides to many of our members been proposed?
Apparently, Queen Elizabeth is expected to join with Lewisham Hospital. Lewisham Hospital has the reputation of being very well run – although it had a small deficit a few years ago, this has now been turned into an annual surplus. Furthermore, last year they opened a brand new A&E Department at a cost of £12 million. Yet the plan is to downgrade it to a non-admitting urgent care centre and transfer emergency services to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This will then leave the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley with one A&E for 750,000 people.
However, the proposals don’t stop there. The lack of good critical care facilities raises the question of whether it would be safe to deliver babies at Lewisham Hospital, and so the TSA has suggested closing the delivery ward. The future of children’s services, which are particularly good at the hospital, is also unclear. Lastly, the TSA points out that reduced services at Lewisham would mean that some of the land could be sold off to raise money. This has lead to fears that rather than improving Queen Elizabeth’s finances, the merger could ruin Lewisham’s finances – with potentially disastrous consequences for the future of Lewisham Hospital.
Support for the campaign to stop the closures has come from all areas of the community. Thousands of people marched through Lewisham in November 2012, symbolically linking hands around the hospital before attending a rally in nearby Ladywell Park. Another day of action is planned for Saturday 26th January. Whether or not you join the march, we would urge all members to sign the petition to stop the closure – to date almost 27000 have signed it.
In the words of one of our members, who is also a senior member of staff at Lewisham Hospital, “When an A&E plus all acute admissions closes, the heart of the hospital has gone. All that will be left is an ‘Urgent Care centre’ – attending to the ‘walking wounded’, minor illnesses, those not requiring hospital admission, plus some elective surgery, a midwife- led ‘low-risk’ birthing centre (not sure who decides what is low-risk), outpatients and radiology. The 25,000 admissions per year plus at least another 35,000 A&E attendees will have to go elsewhere.”
So why not help the campaign organisers to reach their goal of 30,000 signatures by signing the on-line petition today?