Lewisham A&E closure proposals ‘unsafe, rushed and unjust’

13:59 08 January 2013

Matthew Kershaw

Matthew Kershaw's recommendations came at the end of a six-week consultation. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Plans to close and downgrade Lewisham’s emergency and maternity services are “a travesty”, according to one of its consultants.

The hospital will be stripped of its A&E department under proposals today to restructure healthcare services in south east London.

Special administrator Matthew Kershaw today proposed the 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 Healthcare NHS Trust.

Consultant physician Dr John O’Donohue said Mr Kershaw had ignored the views of patients and health experts during his six-week consultation.

He said: “Lewisham Hospital is a solvent, successful hospital with a track record for delivering high-quality care.

“This is the first time the government has put in place its ‘Unsustainable Provider Regime’ for failing NHS organizations, and it sets a disturbing precedent.

“If services at a successful and well run hospital like Lewisham are closed due to problems at a neighbouring Trust, then no hospital in London, or the country, is safe.

“These plans are a travesty. They are unsafe, rushed and unjust, but most of all will disadvantage the people of Lewisham, who will have to travel further to already overcrowded neighbouring A&E and maternity units – units which, ironically, have themselves been diverting ambulances and pregnant women to Lewisham in recent days due to lack of capacity.”

Around 15,000 people took part in a march last November to protest against the threat to Lewisham’s A&E unit in November. A further demonstration will take place from the Lewisham Roundabout from noon on January 26.

“No viable alternative option”

The Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust consultants, and GPs commissioning group also opposed the recommendations.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander also delivered a petition, signed by more than 32,000 people opposing the recommendations, to Downing Street.

A spokesman for the Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust said they were grateful for the support they had received.

He said: “We do support merging with Queen Elizabeth, which is one of the recommendations.

“However, we do not agree with the TSA’s prescriptive approach to service change, which would result in local emergency services being closed and maternity services being downgraded.

“As a successful organisation, we have said we would like to determine the future of services ourselves, and we would include proper engagement with stakeholders and the public.

He added: “All our services are continuing to run as normal. If the Health Secretary does decide to make changes, it would take place over a three year period, and alternative arrangements would have to be in place first.”

A spokesman for Mr Kershaw said: “The views of local doctors have been extremely important and the trust special administrator (TSA) has sought to modify his recommendations where possible on the basis of clinical feedback.

The challenge was that no viable alternative option was presented.

“To be clear, the consultation was not a vote on whether the recommendations should proceed but an opportunity to validate and refine the options set out in the draft recommendations.

As the TSA has consistently stated, doing nothing is not an option.”

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