Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir bid for Christmas No 1

The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir have launched a charity single, ‘A Bridge Over you, and hope to get to No 1 in time for Christmas. The Choir came together for the BBC Series Sing While you Work with Gareth Malone OBE and have been performing together ever since. You can find out more about them (and buy their single!) on their website.

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Lewisham wins hospital appeal

Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign have won the appeal brought by the Secretary of State for Health against the High Court quashing of his decision to downgrade Lewisham Hospital emergency and maternity service.
The verdict was delivered earlier today and confirmed that the Secretary of State and the Trust Special Administrator did not have the legal powers to make changes at Lewisham Hospital under the Unsustainable Provider Regime (UPR).
This is a great result. I was confident of our case but I am still very relieved. This is another victory for each and every individual who signed a petition, who wrote to the Secretary of State and who marched through the streets of Lewisham. Together we have fought to assert the right of the people who use and deliver health services to have a real say in their future. And we have won.
We knew the Secretary of State and the TSA were wrong in the beginning and today we all know they are still wrong now. We all now need to work together with our great local hospital and make sure it can continue to serve our community long into the future.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Launches

A warm welcome to the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust which officially formed today. The Trust is responsible for Lewisham Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, as well as a variety of community health services in Lewisham.

The merger of the two hospitals is a result of the Special Administrator’s recommendations for the South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT). Although the Council successfully challenged the decision of Jeremy Hunt to downgrade Lewisham Hospital, we did not challenge, or disagree with, the merger of the two hospitals. The government’s appeal against the court’s ruling will not have an impact on the creation of the new Trust.

All of the services at Lewisham Hospital – including the threatened A&E and Maternity Units – remain open and are running as usual.

Some have raised concerns about the financial viability of the new trust given the dire financial circumstances of the SLHT. I am reassured to hear that the Department of Health and NHS commissioners are providing funding so Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust can continue to provide safe and sustainable services. Crucially, the new Trust will not inherit the old debts of SLHT and I understand that the government is providing additional financial support towards Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s PFI costs.

I wish the new Trust well and look forward to working with them closely in the future.

Save Lewisham Hospital Victory Rally

I spoke at the Save Lewisham Hospital Victory Rally on Saturday. This is what I said:

Good Afternoon,

Every individual who signed a petition, who wrote to the Secretary of State and who marched in the rain .. and the sun – played a part in winning this battle to save Lewisham Hospital A&E and Maternity unit.  But it is only the first  battle –  we are involved in a struggle which is far from over and there are more battles ahead.

In part that struggle is against arrogance – against people who know nothing of this part of London and its people but  think they can descend on us with their expensive advisers and do just whatever they like.

When they are told that the law doesn’t not permit them to behave in this way they simply ignore it and do what they want anyway.

We told them they were wrong – and they ignored us

So we took them to court – and a judge told them they were wrong too

So how does an arrogant person respond?  He tells the judge he is wrong of course!

Well we will be back in court next month and once again we will make it clear that they were wrong in the beginning and they are still wrong now!

But this is also a struggle for something beyond differing interpretations of Acts of Parliament.

It is a struggle to assert the right of the people who use and deliver health services to have a real say in their future.

This has been an intelligent, well informed campaign – it has not been about knee jerk responses that nothing can ever change.

It has though been about saying to those arrogant people who think they know all the answers – why don’t you stop, listen to us, talk to us and let us locally work out the best way forward.

The NHS is perhaps the greatest institution Britain has produced – it is our pride and we want it to go on serving us and our children and our children’s children down through the years.

In local hands it will change to meet changing circumstances – but it will be safe.

But if the arrogant people from the centre have their way – it will never be safe again – here or anywhere else.

And that is why together we will go on fighting – and winning these battles until our NHS is safe again.

Thank you

Success! Lewisham Hospital fight won by Council

The Council’s legal challenge to save Lewisham Hospital was successful. A high court judge ruled that Jeremy Hunt and the TSA did not have the legal power to take the decision to downgrade the hospital’s A&E and Maternity Units.

Steve Lewisham Hospital Victory - July 2013

The decision vindicates the arguments the Council, local people and the Campaign have made ever since the TSA process began. Thank you for supporting the fight to save the hospital over the past year. Without your efforts this would not have been possible.

Lewisham Hospital is well-managed, highly-respected and financially solvent. The Special Administrator should never have been allowed to make recommendations outside his remit, the Secretary of State should never have adopted his recommendations and this case should never have come to the High Court.

But despite our success the fight will have to go on. The Government will appeal this decision and we will contest it strongly.

Lewisham Hospital remains open. The A&E is fully functional and the maternity unit continues to do an excellent job. I will be working with the Hospital and the CCG to give all the support we can over the next few months and ensure that the high quality of care currently delivered is maintained.

Thank you once again for all your support.

Hospital Legal Fight Launched

Last week, the Council delivered a letter launching legal action against Jeremy Hunt’s disgraceful decision to press ahead with the downgrade of Lewisham Hospital’s maternity and emergency services. 

The letter makes clear to the Secretary of State and to the Trust Special Administrator that I do not believe that they had the statutory power to make such major changes to Lewisham Hospital. They have until the 22 February to withdraw his decision affecting Lewisham Hospital. 

We are advised, and I believe, that we have a very good case. Of course we run a risk that we may be forced to pay legal costs should we not win our case outright. But the strength of feeling in the Council, and in the community, that this is such an important issue it is a risk worth taking. The Council is in the best position in the community to take the leadership on this issue now and to pursue the argument in the courts.

I have already been asked by local people how they can support this legal action. That is why the Council has set up a ‘Fighting Fund’ to enable people to make their own financial contribution to the legal action . I would be delighted if you wanted to make a donation, no matter how large or small. Any money that is unspent will be donated to a local health charity, Children First Lewisham.

The fight to save Lewisham Hospital goes on

The Secretary of State has ridden roughshod over the people of Lewisham with his announcement about the future of Lewisham Hospital earlier today. Jeremy Hunt has ignored the opinions of local people, local GPs and hospital staff who made clear their opposition in their thousands at the weekend. He has pressed ahead regardless by downgrading maternity services and emergency services at the Hospital. 

I have said all along that I believe the TSA’s proposals relating to Lewisham are dangerous and unsafe. It remains to be seen whether the revised proposals to allow Lewisham Hospital to retain its ability to admit patients with less serious conditions and to remain open as a working A&E department will offer any improvement on the originals. We will need to talk to our colleagues at Lewisham Hospital in order to fully understand the implications of Mr Hunt’s statement. 

The proposals relating to the maternity unity have remained the same however, and I do not think they are in the best interests for the people of Lewisham. To have a mid-wife led maternity unit without the support from obstetrics is of great concern. 

I wrote to the Secretary of State last week to tell him that I do not believe that the TSA had the statutory power to make recommendations about Lewisham Hospital and the Secretary of State therefore has no power to implement them. I will be talking with our lawyers to see whether there is any action we can take. I am clear that this is not the end of the matter and hope that we can find a way to retain both the A&E and maternity services at the hospital.

2013 – THE YEAR AUSTERITY HITS THE FRONTLINE

Last week three announcements were made that will have a severe impact on public services in Lewisham, two of which are of a direct result of the government’s austerity policies.

The first was the publication of the TSA’s recommendations for the future of Lewisham Hospital, which recommended closing the A&E department and making drastic changes to the maternity unit. I’ve stated before my opposition to the proposals and will be standing alongside Lewisham residents at the march on 26 January as we take our fight to Jeremy Hunt. 

The Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) then announced it was to close 65 front counters across London, including the police stations in Sydenham and Brockley. Boris Johnson also published his revised policing plan, which will mean Lewisham has 24 fewer police officers in 2015 than in 2010, while Lambeth will have lost as many as 157! I am concerned about the impact of these police cuts on the borough, and will be raising these with Stephen Greenhalgh, the Deputy Mayor for Policing. He’ll be coming to Lewisham Town Hall to explain his plans on 28 January, you can find out more information here 

Finally, the London Fire Brigade have announced plans to close Downham and New Cross Fire Stations as part of their savings proposals. In total, 12 fire stations will be closed in the capital. There are a number of other stations affected in South East London, including Peckham and Woolwich, and I am worried about the cumulative impact of these changes on the safety of residents in our corner of London. Labour’s team on the Greater London Assembly are challenging Boris on these proposals, and as a Council we intend to raise our own concerns about the impact on local people. 

These three proposals will result in a serious erosion of emergency services in Lewisham. Cuts to the Police and Fire Service are as a direct result of the government’s austerity programme as both bodies have had their funding cut. For those thinking that the cuts have not been too bad, think again. 

Many of the worst cuts made by the Tory led government are about to hit. Cuts to benefits and many front line services are about to be implemented and may have far reaching consequences that have not been foreseen. In Lewisham we’re determined to protect services to the most vulnerable in our society and will be doing all we can to ensure that local people are protected from the worst of these Tory cuts.

BBC Question Time – Lewisham Hospital Edition

BBC Question Time came to Lewisham last night, dedicating 15 minutes or so to a debate on the future of Lewisham Hospital. I’ve never seen the BBC’s flagship political debating programme lend such time to a what could be perceived as a local issue before, but I am delighted that they did. The TSA’s recommendations could have far reaching consequences for health services in other areas.

The reaction of the panel to the questions were telling. Every single member, including Lib Dem Minister Ed Davey, criticised the TSA’s report and seemed as perplexed as we are why Lewisham Hospital is being forced to pay for the failure of others.

A debate on national television should help to pile pressure on to Jeremy Hunt to make the right decision and reject the proposals in front of him. But we need to keep this up, and urge as many of you as possible to join the march in Lewisham on 26 January. For more information, visit www.savelewishamhospital.com.

TSA Final Report Published

The TSA’s final recommendations for the future of Lewisham Hospital have finally been published. As I feared the Special Administrator has ignored the voices of thousands of Lewisham residents who opposed his plans to close the hospital’s A&E and tear apart the Maternity service. These were seriously flawed proposals in draft and they remain seriously flawed and dangerous proposals.

The report makes it clear just how united local people are in opposition to these proposals – 96% of Lewisham residents who responded to the consultation said they were opposed to the closure of the A&E. This is simply astonishing. 

It would appear from the final report that our concerns are not misplaced. It tells us that just 50% of those currently attending Lewisham’s A&E would continue to be treated there if the proposals go ahead – significantly below the previous claim of 77% in the draft report. I am concerned that such a huge change in this figure has had no impact on the final proposals and remain unconvinced that the Special Administrator has adequately addressed where those no longer being treated in Lewisham will go. 

The Secretary of State now has until 1 February to make his final decision. It’s vital that between now and then we make him aware of how strong the public anger at these proposals are. I will be joining the march through Lewisham on 26 January and I encourage everyone who can to join me. You can find out further information on the Save Lewisham Hospital campaigns website.

You can view the report here