Local investigative journalist and photographer Andy Worthington attended the 'Consultation' held at the Calabash Centre on December 4th. See his rather good report on his website. Although we suggest you read it in full, we've extracted some of it (with his permission) to publish here:
...Every London borough needs its own fully functioning A&E Department, and Kershaw’s proposals will essentially disembowel Lewisham Hospital in a very short period of time. Without being able to deal with emergencies, the hospital will steadily be starved of patients, and, in any case, a hospital that has had 60 percent of its buildings sold, and is giving over most of the rest of its capacity to elective surgery — private surgery, in other words — is clearly not even a cottage hospital and certainly not one that can provide for the needs of a population that is as big as Brighton, or Newcastle, or Hull.
At the consultation, the majority of the people who attended — either those protesting outside, or those who attended the consultation (to be, for the most part, patronised) — were extremely angry, and with good reason, I believe, as these plans are being sold as a necessity to improve clinical care across south east London as a whole, when, in reality, they are driven by the need to dig the South London Health Trust out of a hole, and by the demands of the government to make savage cuts and financial savings. Money can be found to support the NHS as it needs to be supported, if the political will is there.
...Kershaw and his colleagues, who included Dr Jane Fryer, his chief medical advisor, Dr Mike Marriman, the medical director of King’s, and, alarmingly, Dr Andy Mitchell, the medical director for the whole of the NHS in London (see Andy's picture above), were left in no doubt by the audience that they were regarded as liars and as devious operators who had already made their minds up, that their consultation was a sham, and that people will die if the plans go ahead.
The proposals regarding journey times to Woolwich were accurately dismissed as a fantasy, and there were numerous important contributions from audience members who pointed out the cost, for poor and elderly people, of having to travel elsewhere, and who gave examples of how a degraded A&E, turned into an Acute Care Centre but unable to deal with genuine emergencies, would be revealed as a dangerous absurdity if a sudden emergency occurred — if, for example, a seemingly straightforward birth turned into an emergency because a baby was strangled by its umbilical cord, for instance, let alone if there was any kind of major disaster in Lewisham as a whole.
...And also remember that it is not just in south east London that hospitals are threatened. In north west London, four out of nine A&E Departments are under threat, and the Lewisham campaign has already made contact with the campaign there, called Save Our Hospitals. In total...26 A&E Departments will be “closed or downgraded across England and Wales as part of a policy to centralise services — despite fury among patients and scepticism from medical experts.”As Andy says, "the best way to keep the government and the executioners of the NHS worried is for people to keep fighting". Sign the petition launched by Heidi Alexander MP (top right on this page), and fill in the official consultation form online before December 13th, when the consultation closes.
An easy-to-follow guide to filling in the consultation's "Online Response Form" has been provided by Save Lewisham A&E. It really is simple, takes about five minutes, and you don't have to leave your name and address.
You can also follow Save Lewisham A&E on Twitter and on Facebook — and look for the Twitter hashtag #thankslewisham, where people are telling their moving stories of how staff at the hospital helped them into the world, or saved their lives.