news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘lewisham hospital

Lib Dems endanger Lewisham Hospital – and themselves

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Lewisham Hospital is back in the firing line after parliament voted last night to give the health secretary powers to close local hospitals – a clause inserted after Jeremy Hunt’s failure to close Lewisham Hospital.

Despite talk of concessions, there’ll now be renewed worries for the future of Lewisham, which now forms a joint NHS trust with Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich.

The bill was voted through with support from Liberal Democrat MPs, including Southwark & Bermondsey’s Simon Hughes – a slap in the face for local Lib Dems in south-east London who joined in the battle to save Lewisham Hospital (Lewisham Lib Dem leader Chris Maines is pictured above).

Beckenham’s Conservative MP Bob Stewart was among those who joined Labour MPs and rebelled against the government.

While the Lib Dems were never likely to win seats in Greenwich, they form the opposition on Lewisham Council – and last night’s vote, which comes ahead of elections in May, surely now increases the possibility that they’ll be completely wiped out in nine weeks’ time.

In fact, I’d like to know what the odds are on Labour winning every seat on Lewisham Council. While that result will delight local Labour activists, who see the Lib Dems as worse than dirt, a lack of opposition could prove dangerous in the long run – they don’t have to look far to see what can go wrong when councils are dominated by one party.

So the Lib Dem MPs could have put a lot more than healthcare at risk in SE London last night. If I was one of their council candidates, then this morning I’d seriously be wondering why I was bothering.

Written by Darryl

12 March, 2014 at 8:59 am

Greenwich councillors leap on Lewisham Hospital bandwagon

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There’ll be a few sore heads around Lewisham this morning after the government’s plans to downgrade the accident and emergency department at Lewisham Hospital were quashed by the High Court. While Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health has been given leave to appeal, even this brief pause in the battle is one that’s worth celebrating. It’s a richly-deserved victory for the Save Lewisham A&E campaign and Lewisham Council, and any south-east Londoner that’s given time or money to help the campaign.

The threat to the well-run Lewisham Hospital came solely because of the disastrous financial arrangements imposed on other hospitals in south-east London, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, run by the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. The court’s declared that Lewisham shouldn’t suffer because of the misfortunes of other hospitals, but what will happen from October is that QEH will be taken under the wing of Lewisham Hospital’s trust. Hopefully, both the Lewisham and Woolwich hospitals will be able to keep their A&Es, but QEH will be able to improve under the skilled management of the Lewisham team.

With the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition threatening to close the neighbouring borough’s A&E, heaping pressure onto QEH, how did Greenwich borough’s Labour politicians react? Not very well. When the plans to save the stricken SLHT, including shutting Lewisham A&E, were announced at the end of October, Greenwich Council’s public health cabinet member John Fahy declared they were “better than expected but with serious negatives”. I wrote about this in November, and it’s worth reading the comments too.

Did any of Greenwich’s 40 Labour councillors propose any motion to express the council’s disapproval of the government’s plan to shut the neighbouring A&E? No. To be fair, Greenwich eventually submitted a written response pointing out the closure was wrong, but politically, Greenwich’s Labour leadership didn’t lift a finger in the council chamber. Out of sight of the leader Chris Roberts, backbench councillors asked searching questions at a meeting with the ill-fated NHS adminstrator. But none of them proposed a motion to object, and the leadership kept their mouths shut and their options open. I wrote about this in December.

Until yesterday. Greenwich’s Tory councillors, who can look like dangerous lefties compared with the Labour leadership, proposed a motion suggesting Greenwich uses some of the cash it now gets for public health to fund a clinic to ease the pressure on QEH’s A&E. Not the dumbest idea you’ll read, and an attempt to address an issue. (The motion’s item 15 at the foot of this page.)

The response of Greenwich Labour’s leadership was to propose a completely new motion condemning the government for proposing the closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, and expressing relief at the court ruling.

Greenwich Council

Which would have been fine… had any of Greenwich’s Labour councillors been bothered enough to put together such a motion when Lewisham Hospital was really under threat. But they didn’t.

When there was an excuse to bash the local Tories, suddenly, they found their campaigning zeal to do what they were told to do.

London Labour Party website

There’s a London-wide Labour party campaign on emergency services cutbacks. But in Greenwich Council’s chamber, the Labour party seems exempt from this – unless there’s a bandwagon to be belatedly leapt upon.

PS. Among a load of other unedifying scenes at Wednesday’s council meeting, independent councillor Eileen Glover, who is partially-sighted, was not given large-print copies of amendments to council motions, so she ended up being unable to vote on them. She protested to mayor Angela Cornforth, but was turned down. Neither her former Tory colleagues nor her Labour counterparts seemed interested in helping her, so she sat alone, unable to take part in the votes. That’s got to be illegal, hasn’t it?

Written by Darryl

1 August, 2013 at 10:25 am

Lewisham Hospital: How you can help the legal challenge

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Lewisham Hospital demo, 2012
Lewisham Council decided last night to apply for a judicial review into the Government’s decision to downgrade the accident and emergency unit at Lewisham Hospital. You can listen to councillors debate and approve the decision at Clare’s blog – which, I think, is incidentally the first time a blog’s covered goings-on at Lewisham Town Hall.

If you’re not in Lewisham borough but want to help, particularly if you live in a borough that’s staying weirdly quiet over the affair, you can donate to the Save Lewisham Hospital Legal Challenge Fund, to help offset the possible £200,000 costs of this appeal. It could be a small price to pay to ensure Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley boroughs don’t have to rely on one, already-overloaded, A&E unit.

Written by Darryl

28 February, 2013 at 10:39 am

March again for Lewisham Hospital on Saturday

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Save Lewisham Hospital poster
A little late with this, but you might know about it anyway – the second march to save Lewisham Hospital’s A&E (and by extension, its maternity unit) takes place at noon on Saturday, after the administrator of the PFI-wrecked South London Healthcare Trust decided not to listen to overwhelming evidence and opposition and recommend its closure anyway. There’s a good roundup of recent events in the battle at Transpontine.

I’ve been disturbed at some of the sectarian comments flying around the ether about this debacle – particularly since the media has jumped on the bandwagon. Yes, as the excellent Dr Phil Hammond put it, Lewisham is “collateral damage in a war it didn’t start”, not being part of the PFI disaster which began at Woolwich’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and spread to Princess Royal in Farnborough and Queen Mary’s in Sidcup.

But this isn’t “Lewisham against the world”. Nobody on the Greenwich side of the border asked New Labour to wreck our local hospital with a PFI deal, and nobody sane this side of the border wants the Tories to wreck someone else’s local hospital to save ours.

This affects all of SE London, from St Thomas’s at Lambeth and King’s in Camberwell, right out to Darent Valley in Kent. It’s not just Lewisham’s battle, it’s all of SE London’s fight. More broadly, it’s a battle for the NHS as we all know it.

And if you are stupid enough to look at this parochially, then news that a 76-year-old woman waited in Queen Elizabeth’s A&E for 18 hours should chill you, and make you wonder how it’d cope if Lewisham goes.

Actually, this has brought out the best in SE London’s politicans (with the possible exception of Harriet Harman, seemingly focused on King’s as Camberwell & Peckham MP to the exclusion of all else) – read the Commons debate on the south London NHS fiasco.

I’ll be there on Saturday, as I was last time – will you?

(Read past coverage, and patients’ testimonies, of Lewisham Hospital.)

Written by Darryl

24 January, 2013 at 9:02 pm

If Nick Raynsford can defend Lewisham Hospital, so can you

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Greenwich & Woolwich MP has added his voice to the thousands who are backing the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency and maternity services.

He has opposed the plans to cut services put forward in the report by administrator Matthew Kershaw following the failure of the South London Healthcare Trust, fearing they will overwhelm Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Raynsford says: “The A&E at QEH is already running close to capacity, and reducing A&E services in South East London could seriously compromise patient safety and impose excessive pressures on QEH. Similar considerations apply to maternity services.

“I urge anyone in South London who is concerned about the future of our beloved health service to respond to the consultation process to make their views known. It is vital that we continue to keep strong public pressure on Matthew Kershaw and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to maintain high-quality NHS services throughout South East London. In the meantime, residents of Greenwich and Woolwich have my full assurance that this issue will remain a major focus of my attention over the coming weeks.”

It’s good to see him come out so firmly against the plans – hear more from him a couple of weeks back – it’s a shame that Greenwich Council is still publicly sitting on the fence, although it has registered its objections, preferring instead to bang the drum for polluting new roads. Priorities, eh?

The consultation closes on Wednesday Thursday night – it’s not exactly a user-friendly piece of work, but it’s important as many people as possible speak up for services at Lewisham. You’ll find it here (“go to the online consultation form”). There’s a guide on the Save Lewisham Hospital website. It’ll only take 10 minutes – it could be your last chance to help preserve a decent NHS in south east London.

Written by Darryl

12 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Council to oppose Lewisham A&E closure

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It’s not the full-throated campaign that some would like to see, but Greenwich Council has finally come out against the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency department.

The council’s response was quietly published on its website yesterday. It says “existing levels of demand” as well as past and projected population growth means it “cannot support the closure”.

Greenwich Council's response to the TSA

It adds that “greater clarity is needed in particular about the types of injury and treatment that can be catered for at an Urgent Care Centre,” which is planned to open in Lewisham, “as opposed to a traditional A&E department”, and expresses scepticism about the travel times for ambulances.

While not explicitly calling for Lewisham to keep its maternity ward, the response also calls for extra capacity for a growing population. It’s worth a read if you’ve been following the campaign – I’d be interested in your views.

Friday 00.05 update: Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts has told Greenwich.co.uk:

“The first question, frankly, we had to ask is ‘If we say we don’t support the closure of Lewisham, does that mean you come back and close Queen Elizabeth Hospital?’

“We produced a long list of questions that were added to by our Health Scrutiny Panel that we gave to the Trust Administrator and said ‘Before we say where we’re coming down on this, we want to know the answers to some of these.’” Read more.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. Shannon Hawthorne has a great summary that’s worth reading, too.

Written by Darryl

6 December, 2012 at 7:31 am

SE London NHS consultation: Listen to the meetings

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The Valley, 3 December 2012

In contrast with last night’s meeting in Lewisham, which sounded rather lively (and where security staff reportedly tried to bar journalists), Tuesday’s meeting at The Valley in Charlton was less than half-full, with only about 30-40 people there, with barely a voice raised in anger. A large number of questioners were councillors and members of the Greenwich Labour party.

There wasn’t much new said about the report, which proposes the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and poses a question mark about its maternity services, but I thought I’d post some audio up for those interested, as well as audio from past meetings.

3 December 2012, The Valley, Charlton

a) The TSA’s panel is asked about Lewisham’s maternity services:

b) Matthew Kershaw is asked about the modelling of maternity services:

c) Most of the rest of the meeting:

21 November 2012, Christchurch Forum, Greenwich
(audio courtesy of Clare Griffiths)

15 November 2012, Woolwich Town Hall (to the public and Greenwich councillors)
(poor quality, but here’s a full post on the meeting)

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. Shannon Hawthorne has a great summary that’s worth reading, too.

Written by Darryl

5 December, 2012 at 12:19 am

Lewisham Hospital: Will the real Labour Party please stand up?

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Lewisham Council ad

I went along to a public meeting in Eltham last week, and heard the area’s Labour MP Clive Efford absolutely tear into the plans to close the A&E at Lewisham Hospital. He spoke passionately about his wife’s experiences dealing with the private Blackheath Hospital, before turning his attention to what happened at Queen Mary’s in Sidcup when its A&E was under threat.

What happened at Sidcup A&E – it closed because the doctors wouldn’t work there. It had the sword of Damocles hanging over it – when jobs were advertised elsewhere, the doctors took them and no other doctors came in. So when they closed the A&E, they closed it because there were no flipping doctors there!

And that is what is going to happen at Lewisham. It’s got the sword of Damocles hanging over it, just like Sidcup, and it’ll die a death of a thousand cuts even if a decision is made to save it, it’ll probably have gone already. That’s what happens in the NHS, the doctors now know there’s a doubt about the future, and they’ll vote with their feet. And we will lose that A&E, the longer this decision goes on.

My view is – remove it from the proposals now. No closure of Lewisham A&E.

You can hear Clive Efford in full, below. (Audioboo)

You can also hear Erith & Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce, who also roundly condemned the proposals, adding the proposal for Lewisham had “knock-on effects for all of us”. “This report is looking to patch up a discredited market model,” she said. Here she is summing up at the end. (Audioboo)

Greenwich MP Nick Raynsford was a little more equivocal – I don’t think he actually mentioned Lewisham Hospital specifically, but he said the proposals were “too risky”. As for having just four A&Es in south-east London, he said it was “an assumption that needs to be questioned – I think there’s real worry about it”.

Here’s Nick Raynsford on the organisational aspects of the review. (Audioboo)

Matthew KershawNick Raynsford on A&Es and maternity services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. (Audioboo)

Here’s Nick Raynsford summing up. (Audioboo)

Matthew Kershaw was heckled when he tried, once again, to use the Fabrice Muamba case as an example of how NHS emergency care works these days (the Bolton footballer was taken to the London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green after suffering a heart attack at Tottenham, rather than a hospital closer to N17). (Audioboo)

Here’s Matthew Kershaw on private firms and the PFIs which have helped cripple South London Healthcare (Audioboo)

Finally, here he is insisting his plans have clinical support. Others disagree. (Audioboo)

Listening to Efford and Pearce tear into Kershaw’s proposal, you’d walk away content and under the impression that the local Labour parties are utterly opposed to Kershaw’s plans. Indeed, the meeting was organised by We Love The NHS, which is closely associated with the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party.

But the truth is anything but. And for those affected by the planned upheavals in south east London’s NHS – and that’s all of us, not just those in a borough with blue bins – the country’s opposition party and the dominant party in this part of the world is letting us down.

This isn’t a party political finger-jabbing – for if the Labour Party can’t get its act together on fighting for Lewisham Hospital, then it may as well just sign up to the coalition’s policies on health. If one part of the Labour Party is doing one thing, and another is doing something else, then why should we listen to or trust it?

Obviously, the party’s in a difficult situation, as the roots of the South London Healthcare fiasco lie in the Labour Government’s decision to impose a PFI on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital over a decade ago. Labour’s fingerprints are all over 31% of the trust’s debt. However, this can be a time to wipe the slate clean. But even now, there are those in the party who’ll defend that PFI, despite the crippling debts it brought about. This, though, is the last of its problems.

We know parties are broad coalitions, and it’s no secret there are some in the Labour Party whose views on the NHS are similar to the coalition’s. But the London Labour Party’s fully behind the Lewisham A&E campaign and has a firm line on this. It’s just launched a 999 SOS campaign, highlighting the threats to the NHS in London, as well as police and fire services. Cue lots of Labour politicians slapping themselves heartily on the back.

Lewisham’s completely behind it, proudly boasting that all of its councillors are fully behind the hospital campaign. Borough MPs Joan Ruddock, Heidi Alexander and Jim Dowd have spoken out. Indeed, Lewisham Council has thrown resources into backing the campaign, demanding an extension to the consultation and putting adverts up across the borough and using its Lewisham Life magazine to push the cause.

Ealing Council campaignIn west London, there’s a serious threat to local A&Es there, too. Ealing Council’s launched a Save Our Hospitals campaign to demand that not just Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals are protected, but so are Charing Cross and Hammersmith, which lie outside its area.

So, we can see examples of local Labour parties and Labour councils working not just to protect what lies within their borders, but what lies outside, too.

But not all London Labour councils are as signed up to the 999 SOS campaign as you’d expect. Yes, you guessed it, once again, Greenwich is dragging its feet at the back of the pack.

It’s not that Greenwich hasn’t done anything – it’s actually done some good work in organising extra public meetings. But while other councils are campaigning, Greenwich is keeping its mouth shut and its options open. A joint campaign between the two councils would have done wonders – but instead, it seems Greenwich is focusing more on its own hospital, Queen Elizabeth, and not worrying about the other.

Indeed, while none will go on the record as saying so, there are Greenwich councillors who see nothing wrong with the threat to Lewisham’s A&E – perhaps that Kershaw’s plans are a little too hasty, and that other NHS reforms should be given a chance to kick in first.

What we do know is that health cabinet member John Fahy has called the plans “better than expected but with some serious negatives”, and has said “changes need to happen” without elaborating much further.

News of the consultation has fallen off the front of Greenwich Council’s website, and as for leader Chris Roberts, he has only given a bland statement urging residents to take part in the process – not a million miles from the line put out by Lewisham Conservatives.

Lewisham demo, 20 November 2012Is the Greenwich Labour party campaigning to save emergency services, or not? We know that many in the local party are unhappy. Sceptical councillors did a good job of cross-examining Kershaw last month, and a handful paraded with a party banner through Lewisham last weekend (others, apparently, had decided to campaign in the Croydon North by-election instead).

But even its We Love The NHS campaign has been silent on the Lewisham issue, despite organising the Eltham meeting mentioned above. Is Greenwich somehow exempt from campaigning for its neighbouring borough?

“[It's] vital we do not let the Government divide the people of Lewisham and Greenwich by pitting one hospital against another,” tweeted Lewisham councillor Liam Curran a couple of weeks back. But unfortunately for the Sydenham representative, and the rest of us, his party colleagues may have fallen into that trap already.

It’s possible we may see Greenwich’s response start to emerge this week. “If we don’t fight to save emergency services, who will?”, asked Labour assembly member Fiona Twycross recently. Within days, we may find out if her party colleagues in Greenwich have got the message.

Update 2.50pm: This week’s new edition of Greenwich Council’s weekly newspaper Greenwich Time does, indeed, launch a new campaign… but on river crossings.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. There’s a consultation meeting at The Valley in Charlton on Monday (TONIGHT) at 7pm.

Save Lewisham’s maternity ward: A mother’s story

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Guest post: As well as the accident and emergency unit, Lewisham hospital’s maternity unit is also under threat from the Kershaw report into south-east London’s health services, which suggests that maternity services be carried out at Queen Elizabeth, Princess Royal, King’s College and St Thomas’s Hospitals, with Lewisham listed as only having a “potential” unit.

Erith & Thamesmead’s Labour MP Teresa Pearce criticised the plan last week at a meeting in Eltham. “Believe me, you don’t know how complex a birth can be until you’re in labour,” she said. Cuts at Lewisham would “have knock-on effects for all of us,” she added.

Clare Griffiths‘ son James, now five, was born at Lewisham. She takes up the story of how his life was saved by the staff there – and how being close to a maternity unit made caring for him much easier.

Lewisham hospital’s maternity unit handles around 4,400 deliveries a year, most of which (to use Matthew Kershaw’s language) are unremarkable. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?

That’s what happened to me when I had my first child, James, at Lewisham hospital back in 2007.
I was 33 weeks pregnant when a bout of food poisoning brought on premature labour and I ended up on the maternity ward being given drugs to try and stop it.

They didn’t work, and James was scanned and found to be breech (feet down instead of head down), so I had to have an emergency caesarian section.

I also had an injection to try and mature James’s lungs a bit more, as at 33 weeks they aren’t necessarily mature enough to allow baby to breathe independently. These need 12 hours to work.

James Griffiths, 2007The team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit came to see me before I had the c-section to explain what was likely to happen – I would have my baby, then he would be taken away from me to be resuscitated if necessary and put in an incubator in the NICU. This was not to be a normal “unremarkable” experience.

James was born at 6:25am, only about 6 hours after having the injection – they’d had to move to do the c-section quicker than they’d hope because the drugs to slow down labour hadn’t worked and I was in danger of getting to second stage labour.

He actually cried straight away – the relief I felt at that point is hard to describe – which meant I got to hold him for a very short time before he was taken to NICU and put in an incubator.

I was taken to recovery and didn’t see him again until the following day. At this point he was out of the incubator and into the low dependency nursery A of the special care baby unit (SCBU).

I had to express breast milk for him, as he was being tube fed. Expressing works best if you can do it near to your baby, as it helps the milk to flow. Regular visits down to SCBU were therefore essential, and despite finding movement difficult because of the section, by the following afternoon I was able to walk (slowly) down there myself.

The day after that I was discharged to make room for other mothers and James stayed in SCBU. Fortunately Lewisham hospital is a short drive from our house, so although I wasn’t able to drive myself, I could be driven there with relative ease. There’s also two buses that go there from near to our house so getting there quickly on public transport is straightforward.

This was really important, as I needed to get there to express milk for him, not having an expensive breast pump of my own, and obviously I wanted to spend as much time with him as I possibly could, so was travelling there twice a day or more. I spent a lot of time crying as well – to say this was not what I’d imagined is a huge understatement.

Six days later we were able to bring James home. Suffice to say that they were six of the longest days of my life. I cannot imagine what any of that would have been like if Lewisham hospital hadn’t had a maternity unit.

I would have given birth at King’s, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Royal or perhaps even St Thomas’. When I had been discharged, my baby would have been miles away in an inaccessible hospital.

There is simply no way I would have been able to visit him as often as I did at Lewisham. This would have made a difficult time into an impossible one. It was heartbreaking enough to have to leave him knowing he was fairly nearby and I could visit often.

It would have been cruel to think that I would only have been able to get there perhaps once a day, bearing in mind that I’d also had major abdominal surgery to get James out, so moving around was painful and difficult. On top of that, expressing milk would also have been more difficult – I wouldn’t have been able to use the hospital’s industrial-grade pump, I’d have had to buy my own and if I couldn’t afford that then that would have been the end of breastfeeding full stop.

Breast milk is really important for premature babies, even more so than full-term ones, so that would have been worse for James’s health and development.

In the end, my story is a happy one, and I fully believe that having given birth at Lewisham was absolutely essential to that outcome.

We cannot stand by and let Jeremy Hunt and his cronies take our maternity unit away from us. We owe it to all those mothers who have yet to give birth there, and especially to those whose stories will turn out to be a little out of the ordinary.

Paediatric consultants have also responded to the report – see here to read their criticisms.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. There’s a consultation meeting at The Valley in Charlton on Monday at 7pm.

Written by Darryl

2 December, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Thousands march to demand Lewisham A&E stays open

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It was no day for a demo. But they came from across south-east London. These placards greeted me when I jumped on a bus in Charlton.

When I arrived, twenty minutes before the march started, there were three or four hundred there.

When I left, twenty minutes after the march started, there were three or four thousand setting off down Lewisham High Street.

Thousands of marchers – hundreds of stories.

Organisers say 15,000 had joined the march by the time it reached Ladywell Fields.

I’m told Labour Party members were abused on the march – I got grief from a man for even talking to someone holding Greenwich Labour Party’s banner. It’s possibly a little unfair on the Lewisham councillors, mayor Steve Bullock and MP Heidi Alexander who have all endorsed this march. But memories of the Labour government’s PFI which created Queen Elizabeth Hospital, starting the process which led to this mess, linger long in this, a part of London which has little time for those who try it on.

The numbers on the march are as much a warning to the Labour party as much as the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Are any of them listening?

For more on the protest, visit savelewishamhospital.com. For more on the proposals, see the adminstrator’s website.

Written by Darryl

24 November, 2012 at 6:08 pm


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