An estimated 20-25,000 protesters took to the streets of Lewisham on Saturday to protest against proposed cuts to Lewisham maternity services and A&E.

The march, which started in central Lewisham, was routed to go past the hospital, ending up in a rally at Mountsfield Park.

Local MP Joan Ruddock called the protest “the biggest in her 25 years as MP” and the march was notable for including hundreds of children and babies in buggies, proudly displaying signs saying “Born in Lewisham Hospital”.

The closures have been recommended by administrator Matthew Kershaw, who was tasked by the Government to provide cost savings for the South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which is insolvent due to PFI debt. The SLHT has three hospitals, which are located in neighbouring boroughs to Lewisham.

Lewisham, which is a solvent and thriving teaching hospital, has been earmarked for closure despite not being part of the SLHT. Lewisham’s A&E department is busy around the clock and has just undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment. The hospital has vastly improved its maternity services and their state-of-the-art birthing centre has been widely acclaimed. 

Some protestors claim the consultation was flawed as it was swift and there was a lack of transparency on the consultation form about the effect these “backdoor” closures will have on the local population. The consultation form itself was tricky to fill in, deterring many from completing it.

A petition against the closures, set up by local MP Heidi Alexander, has already exceeded its original target of 30,000. To sign: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lewisham-hospital/  

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is due to make his decision on Kershaw's recommendations on February 1st.

For more background detail on the proposed closures visit www.savelewishamhospital.com/ 

Written by penny.hosie@pavpub.com