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Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined the growing ranks of those speaking out against the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E services, the trust’s chaplain has said.

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The South African Nobel Peace Prize winner was contacted because he once lived close by in Grove Park. He was also made Freeman of the Borough in 1990.

Malcolm Hancock said he had agreed to back the campaign, sparked after special administrator Matthew Kershaw recommended axing the services as part of his proposals to restructure healthcare services in south east London.

He said: “Desmond Tutu used to live locally, and he opened the Riverside building at Lewisham Hospital, which provides modern inpatient facilities, in 2007.

“Given his links to the hospital, I contacted him to let him know about the proposals to close the full A&E and maternity services at Lewisham, which is a high performing and financially solvent NHS Trust.

“Although Desmond Tutu is currently on an educational world voyage, he responded straight away and asked for his name to be added to the petition against the proposals.

“He said that he stands foursquare behind the petitioners, and described the plans to close down vital services as ‘scandalous’. He said that he hoped that good sense will prevail.”

Mr Kershaw’s proposals came as part of his recommendations that the financially-stricken South London Healthcare NHS Trust is broken up after it racked up debts of £150million.

He recommended A&E services in south east London should only be provided at King’s College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Princess Royal University Hospital.

But Lewisham Hospital is not part of the South London trust.

Mr Hancock added that the campaign against the closure of services at Lewisham had the support of faith leaders in the borough.

“Everyone I have spoken to opposes these plans. There simply is no reason to close vital services for a population where the local population has high health needs.”

A demonstration held to protest against the proposals, which will be decided by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on February 1, will take place by the Lewisham Roundabout from noon on Saturday.

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