Saving Lewisham hospital – saving the NHS

Last week I visited my GP surgery. After a much more protracted wait than any prior visit, I was given a homily about the state of the NHS, advised that it might be easier to seek a scan (already advised by another practitioner) through a private route.

Last week I visited my GP surgery. After a much more protracted wait than any prior visit, I was given a homily about the state of the NHS, advised that it might be easier to seek a scan (already advised by another practitioner) through a private route.

I was also told of the new complexities of getting an NHS physio appointment via an assessment panel, when on the screen sat a letter dating back to pre-CCG March 2013, inviting me to apply for further appointments should my condition not improve.

Thankfully following some firm but polite insistence on my own behalf I left the surgery with a referral for further specialist exploration via a different NHS route. Others may well have left empty handed.

Welcome to our ‘brave’ new health service jungle where things most definitely ain’t what they used to be.

Clearly it’s not easy for the GP either – which is of course precisely what the government wanted when it came to passing the very heavy buck that is CCG management.

When Shadow health lead Andy Burnham MP visited Lewisham the previous evening, he began his speech:

“I admit it – we let the market in too far and now on the 65th anniversary of the NHS we need to renew our commitment to Bevan’s NHS: public service over privatisation; collaboration over competition and people’s wellbeing before self-interested profit.”

This is the same line that he re-iterated in Friday’s NHSConfed speech, where his words on real integration of social care and genuine support for the NHS made a refreshing change to so many other speakers.

“Be in no doubt,” he repeated, “we will repeal the Health and Social Care Act. It will go in the early days of government is 2015.”

Earlier in Wednesday’s Opposition Debate he had singled out Lewisham Hospital’s current predicament to highlight the crisis in A&E and a hospital system in chaos

“Why does…the secretary of state believe it is sensible to downgrade the A&E service at Lewisham and divert tens of thousands of people to other hospitals where the ambulances are queuing all down the road?”

“How” he then asked, “can it make sense to close A&Es in the middle of an A&E crisis?”

“To reassure people, will the secretary of state personally review all the ongoing A&E closure or downgrade proposals on a case-by-case basis, in the light of the very latest evidence of pressure in the local health economy?”

The situation, as Lewisham East, MP Heidi Alexander said, is now being repeated all over the country. In the face of an A&E system in crisis,  she explained that her constituents will have to travel further to go to departments where performance is generally below that at Lewisham – the A&E performing better in waiting times during 29/35 weeks.

In addition, in the first quarter of the current year, ambulances were placed on divert 25 times to Lewisham hospital –  “and away from the very hospitals where my constituents are now being told to go. It does not take a brain surgeon to work out why 25,000 people chose to march against these proposals in January“.

Later in the day Burnham left his Lewisham audience in no doubt as to his feelings and his intention :

“I give my full support and backing to Lewisham Hospital. 25,000 people marching through the streets is a remarkable achievement.  We support the campaign.”

No one listening would have disagreed with him as he said, while wearing a ‘Don’t Keep Calm Get Angry’ badge, that the government is behaving “with total and utter disregard for the NHS and is picking off successful provision like Lewisham in a way which has never been seen before – and which is causing outrage in a way which has never been seen before. We need to hold this government to account every day”.

With support from Lewisham borough Council, on 29 June Justice for Lewisham Week commences with the Lewisham People’s Commission, chaired by Sir Michael Mansfield QC, accompanied on the panel by Baroness Mary Warnock and Blake Morrison.

The Mansfield team will interrogate the plans for Lewisham Hospital and the implications for SE London. Lord Owen will open the event.  Very modestly pieced tickets available here.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign fundraising target to cover High Court legal costs is £20k .

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.