Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed that he intends to close and downgrade swathes of services at Lewisham Hospital.
His announcement today, Thursday, will impose savage cuts to A&E, maternity, children’s and intensive care services at the hospital in south east London.
But campaigners have pledged to continue the fight to stop the cuts. They plan to gather at the hospital from 5.30pm today to protest against the attacks.
Hunt was forced to backtrack on plans to close the hospital’s A&E. Instead he announced that it will retain a smaller A&E. Yet this will still mean a reduced service at a time when hospitals across Britain regularly see ambulances queuing up to bring in emergency patients.
One student nurse who works at Lewisham Hospital told Socialist Worker, “If it wasn’t for our protests, we wouldn’t have an A&E. It shows that protests have been effective.
“He clearly couldn’t ignore the fact that thousands of people have marched to show opposition to the cuts.
“But the Tories have only said that they won’t fully close the A&E at the moment. It could still close in the future. And they’re still making other cuts. We can’t trust the Tories with our NHS – we have to continue to fight to stop all the cuts.”
The cuts were recommended by Matthew Kershaw, the administrator for South London Healthcare NHS Trust. The trust has debts because of PFI schemes.
Lewisham Hospital isn’t part of the trust – but the Tories want to slash services there anyway. Hunt told the House of Commons, “I respect and recognise the sense of unfairness that people feel”.
Yet he claimed that the cuts would be “in the interests of the people of Lewisham”.
The cuts have sparked enormous opposition. Over 25,000 people marched in Lewisham against the plans last Saturday.
And GPs, MPs and others handed in petitions with more than 50,000 signatures against the cuts to the Department of Health yesterday.
The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign said, “There is no doubt that the fight is not over. We will continue to fight for Lewisham Hospital and our NHS.”
Join the protest today, Thursday 31 Jaunary, from 5.30pm, Lewisham Hospital, Lewisham High St, London SE13 6LH