Reaction: Lewisham Hospital decision
All the reaction from health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to downgrade Lewisham A&E
Time to build on what we have and mount the biggest-ever defence of a local hospital.’
Hunt’s decision has gone against us – he proposes a reduced A&E unit, and the removal of Lewisham’s clinically excellent maternity and children’s services under the guise of providing “better health services”.
We are asking all supporters who are able to gather at the hospital from 5.30 onwards.
We marched in unprecedented numbers on Saturday to make our voices heard. Yesterday at the Department of Health we handed in a giant petition signed by 1000s on the march as well as the petition signed by over 50,000 people online and on the streets of Lewisham. The legal fight will begin, with the Council, and the campaign will take this forward in many other ways.
Louise Irvine, chair, Save Lewisham Campaign
We are disappointed today to hear that Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State, has accepted the proposal to downgrade A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital. He has proposed Lewisham retains a smaller, limited 24/7 emergency department, and a stand-alone midwife-led birth centre.
Clearly, we need more information on Jeremy Hunt’s proposals before commenting in detail. The Trust Board response to the consultation was clear that we believe Lewisham needs full emergency and obstetric services.
Statement from Lewisham NHS Healthcare Trust
The secretary of state is riding roughshod over the people of Lewisham
These plans have been roundly rejected by local people, by the staff who work in the hospital and by local GPs. The Secretary of State has pressed ahead regardless by downgrading maternity services and emergency services at Lewisham Hospital. But let me be clear, this is not the end of the matter.
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 to our lawyers and we will also of course need to talk to our colleagues at Lewisham Hospital in order to fully understand the implications of Mr Hunt’s statement.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock
The longstanding problems at South London Healthcare NHS Trust must not be allowed to compromise patient care in the future. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on paying for debt rather than improving patient care for the local community in South East London.
What is in the clinical interests of patients in South East London has been at the heart of my decision making process, and as a result I have followed clinical advice to keep open the A&E in Lewisham.
However, some changes need to be made so that money is spent on patient care rather than servicing historic debt. The decisions I have taken today will ensure that and that patients in South East London will be able to rely on the NHS for years to come.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt
Healthcare in South East London is at a turning point. We need to strike the right balance between ensuring that all patients have access to the best possible specialist treatment whilst providing safe, effective and convenient services close to home.
I expect that balance to result in about three quarters of patients currently seen in Lewisham A&E continuing to receive complete care at Lewisham Hospital and about a quarter being transferred for more specialist treatment elsewhere.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director
The failure regime should be used as a last resort and must not become a back-door route for reconfiguring hospital services. With a number of other trusts also facing serious financial challenges, it is vital that, wherever possible, these problems are resolved before it becomes necessary to invoke the failure process - this will require stronger political leadership than we have seen in the past.
When it does become clear that a hospital has reached crisis point, decisions about its future should be made as quickly as possible. However, we are concerned that the current timetable for the failure process is not long enough to properly consult local people and meet the four tests laid down by the government for significant service change.
Chris Ham, chief executive, King’s Fund
This is the first time an NHS Trust has been through the new ‘regime for unsustainable NHS providers’ as a result of financial failure. It was unchartedterritory and therefore important that there is now reflection on how this has been implemented and to learn from what has happened.
There have been concerns that the consultation period was too short and that local people needed more time to get their views across, particularly those who were in neighbouring health economies. Changing hospital structures and the way care is delivered is never easy, but it is essential that there is close cooperation with clinicians and local people so that there is full consideration of all the issues.
The BMA has been providing support to affected members and this will continue as we advise those doctors about how they can deal with the transition process.
Everyone across South East London deserves the best possible services and [health secretary Jeremy Hunt] has made the right decision on all but one of [the trust special administrator’s] recommendations. On Lewisham Hospital A&E however, he is sadly delaying the inevitable and costing the taxpayer more. In an economy in which national debt continues to rise, to choose a solution that increases financial risk and debt is regrettable.
It’s all very well intending the A&E to be smaller and focus on older people, but the reality is that people use their local A&E as an alternative to their GP and attendance across the country rises year on year. Added to this in North London commissioners are trying to close the smaller A&Es. If it remains open, people will use it as before. Unfortunately sentimentality and politics have left us with a solution that is unsustainable in the long term and will have to be revisited yet again in the future.