Protesters score partial victory for Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department


Protestors who took to the streets to save a south London hospital has scored a partial victory. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced today  that Lewisham Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department has been saved from total closure.

But services at the hospital. will be cut back, meaning that patients from that part of London will face longer journeys to and from hospital.  The concession is unlikely to end the protests which saw 25,000 demonstrators out on the streets last Saturday.

The threat to Lewisham had outraged local opinion because it is a well-managed hospital which faced drastic cuts to pay for losses run up by other hospitals in that part of London. The South London Healthcare Trust, which has accumulated debts of more than £200 million, and is losing £1 million a week, is to dissolved in nine months.

Mr Hunt conceded that the losses had not come from Lewisham, but told MPs that it is in the interests of people living in the area as much as patients from elsewhere in south London that the trust’s finances are sorted. He also argued that concentrating services in fewer specialist centres will save lives.

He blamed the Trust’s financial problems on the Labour government, which set it up and encouraged the trust to enter into expensive public finance initiative deals.

But the Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, countered that the changes Mr Hunt announced were “financially driven” and that a clinical justification had been “thrown together” to justify the cost cutting. He said that this created a “dangerous precedent.”

Lewisham MP Heidi Alexander told the Health Secretary: “You may appear to have thrown something of a lifeline to Lewisham Accident and Emergency…but it’s far from the services that the people of south east London deserve.”

Mr Hunt also faced criticism from one his fellow Tory MPs,  Bob Stewart, who told him: “I do find it rather strange that a successful hospital is being slashed when other hospitals are being saved.”