Unions vow to finance future protests against Lewisham A+E “downgrade”

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By John Millington 

Health unions rounded on Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s controversial decision to “downgrade” Lewisham A+E today, promising to finance future “legitimate actions” by residents opposed to the decision.

The Health secretary has accepted the majority of the Trust Special Administrator report which includes:

  • The Trust will be dissolved, with each of its hospitals taken over by a neighbouring hospital trust.  These mergers are subject to approval from the relevant regulators.
  • All three hospitals within South London Healthcare NHS Trust – Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Queen Mary’s in Sidcup and the Princess Royal in Bromley – will be required to make the full £74.9 million of efficiencies identified by the Trust Special Administrator.
  • All vacant or poorly utilised premises will be vacated, and sold where possible.
  • The Department will pay for the excess costs of the PFI buildings at the Queen Elizabeth and Princess Royal Hospitals and write off the accumulated debt of the Trust so that the new organisations are not saddled with historic debts.  It will also negotiate an appropriate level of transitional funding to cover implementation.

However Mr Hunt claimed that he was keeping the A+E open although it would not treat more “complex” conditions such as pneumonia and serious heart problems.

“Lewisham Hospital will retain its ability to admit patients with less serious conditions, and will continue to have 24/7 senior medical emergency cover, allowing it to remain open as a working A&E department treating up to 75% of the patients who currently use it, a statement from the Department of Health said.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt claimed that the decision would “improve” overall patient care.

Patients with more serious conditions could be taken to other hospitals, he confirmed claiming the proposals could save up to “100 lives per year” through higher clinical standards.

He added it was on the advice of NHS Medical Director Professor Bruce Keogh that the decision was taken to retain Lewisham Hospital’s A&E in the best interests of patients.

However despite the Health Secretary’s assurances protests are planned tonight outside the hospital from residents.

Steve Turner, Unite executive director of policy and local resident, said:
 “Last Saturday 25,000 local residents marched to save Lewisham and now they have been kicked in the teeth.
“The attack on Lewisham A&E and maternity services is a disgraceful betrayal of the people of south east London.
“If Tory ministers – who have the personal wealth to ‘go private’ – think they can destroy our NHS with the swipe of a pen they are badly mistaken.
Mr Turner added that people in Lewisham would not back down and that the union stood ready to support them.
“Our community in Lewisham is united in this fight to defend what generations before us fought and died to build.
“Unite will support, encourage and resource any legitimate actions felt appropriate to stop the  proposed downgrading – we will not stand back as our health service is privatised for profit, not in Lewisham, not anywhere. 
“The health of the people is the highest calling for a modern and progressive society and the Tories will pay if they continue to ignore a growing anger at their arrogance and contempt for ordinary, decent people.”
Rehana Azam, GMB National Office for NHS accused the government of trying to privisitise the NHS saying:

This Government is now presiding over the downfall, break up and privatisation of the NHS.As people will have to travel further to access services, particularly urgent care in built up areas with congested roads, lives will be put at risk.

GMB calls on MP’s to organize a binding vote in Parliament to stop the Secretary of State implementing these decisions.

They need to do this as lives are being put significantly risk.

There should be proper consultation which listens to the hundreds of thousands of people in South East London who are saying don’t shut our services.

The basic principles of NHS provided free at the point of use and delivery have been tarnished as Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt takes on recommendations to shut down services.”



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