Tagged: lewisham hospital

Lib Dems endanger Lewisham Hospital – and themselves

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.

Greenwich councillors leap on Lewisham Hospital bandwagon

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?

Lewisham Hospital: How you can help the legal challenge

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.

March again for Lewisham Hospital on Saturday

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.)

If Nick Raynsford can defend Lewisham Hospital, so can you

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.

Greenwich Council to oppose Lewisham A&E closure

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.

SE London NHS consultation: Listen to the meetings

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

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.