Tagged: save 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.

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.

Quiz Boris Johnson on Silvertown Tunnel (or Lewisham Hospital)

A quick heads up – if you want to quiz Boris Johnson on why he wants to pollute half of Greenwich and beyond with his new Silvertown Tunnel, or why he’s refusing to support the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency service, then he’s doing a public Q&A at the Broadway Theatre in Catford (or “Catford, Lewisham” as City Hall calls it) a month today, on Thursday 7 March. Apply for a seat via the City Hall website.

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.

Save Lewisham A&E: Carol’s story

Guest post: Carol Brown explains how Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency ward, under threat of closure, saved her life earlier this year.

It is a miracle I am here at all.

In January this year, unbeknown to myself and my partner, I was very sick indeed, in fact dangerously so – only hours away from death.

I had a perforated duodenal ulcer, diagnosed by Lewisham A&E. This was swiftly followed by an emergency operation performed by Mr Steger and his team.

My partner, Barry, spent hours in a side room at Lewisham hospital thinking about his eulogy for my funeral. I was to be buried in a woodland grave in Shropshire and Bridge Over Troubled Water would be played. Mr Steger told Barry later that day I was “knocking at death’s door”. Statistically, my chances were not good. But I’m alive!

Carol and BarryI cannot put into words just how very grateful I am. Thanks to the excellent surgery and about 6 weeks of brilliant critical care nursing, where everything was done for me, including for quite some time even breathing. Thanks also to the daily visits to my bedside and amendments to my treatment by the surgical team, and also to the interventions of the dialysis doctors – I am not six feet under, pushing up the wildflowers in a Shropshire meadow. I am here!

The ICU (intensive care unit) nurses are brilliant at their jobs. They would patiently and calmly explain what they were doing, and answer any questions posed by my anxious visitors, at a time when I was completely unaware and later conscious but unable to speak.

I would also like to thank the ICU physiotherapists who offered to brush my hair from early on – I shook my head at first until I felt certain that I would survive. Later, they helped me to leave my bed.

And thank you also to the therapists who monitored my initial drinking, and then eating very carefully, when I stopped being “nil by mouth”. I am utterly certain that without the experience, skills, patience, ability, time and dedication of the whole emergency team at Lewisham, I would not be here.

I would not have seen the sea, a full moon or a rainbow. I would not have happily woken up to a cat sharing my pillow – I understand that hospital staff would frown on such things!

My daughter would not have a mother. I have since discovered that the mortality rate of the critical care unit is low – I directly benefitted from that.

And seeing as, thank God I am here; I’m able to tell you exactly what I think of The TSA’s plans. The critical care unit, which comprises the ICU and the High Dependency Unit (HDU), is filled to capacity (95% use).

The Kershaw plan is not only for closure and relocation to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich, but for the number of critical care beds to be cut from 21 to 7. This is a devastating cut and inevitably will result in more people dying.

My impression, from a recent consultation and also to the reaction to the ICU consultants’ letter, is that TSA doesn’t want to be known and remembered as the person who closed (and failed to replace) critical care beds, though this is the reality.

There is no way this can be dressed up as anything but a loss.

I am extremely determined. One ICU nurse told me she had never seen anyone fight for their life as hard as I did. I wish to use my campaigning skills and that determination to keep Lewisham Hospital, its A&E department, its critical care unit and its maternity ward fully open, and its paediatric services as they are now.

I am still on the road to recovery. My memory is variable and I have some physical scars. Frankly, it is a very small price to pay for being alive. It is a privilege to try to save Lewisham as they saved me.

I understand I’m an atypical former patient of the critical care unit, in that I will go to great lengths to publicise my experience and the work of this wonderful unit. The majority are silent, but I am not!

As a celebration of my survival Barry and I recently got married, after 26 years together and the birth of our daughter, who is now 22 and who made a wonderful bridesmaid. Our wedding was blessed at the chaplaincy in Lewisham Hospital. And at our wedding reception, what did we play? Bridge over Troubled Water.

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.