JFHC Editor Penny Hosie fears the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital will place mother and babies’ lives at risk:
With the RCM report stating that England’s maternity services are already overstretched [read full story here], it makes it even harder to understand why my local maternity unit (and A&E departments) at Lewisham Hospital is are under threat.
These “backdoor closures” have been widely criticised (www.jfhc.co.uk/these_cuts_will_run_deep_19386.aspx). Opposition stems partly from outrage that Lewisham Hospital is not even part of the beleaguered South London Healthcare Trust, the trust which is currently experiencing severe financial difficulties.
Public consultation about the closure was brief – and expensive. Indeed with the process already costing millions of pounds, it is in danger of defeating the cost-savings argument put to the Health Minister by administrator Matthew Kershaw.
Many people also feel it was flawed as the form was so detailed (though lacking in detail of the scale of the proposed effect on Lewisham) that it was offputting for many. However the scale of opposition was seen last month when local MPs Heidi Alexander and Joan Ruddock went to Downing Street to hand in a petition containing nearly 30,000 signatures.
Support for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign on twitter (@savelewishamae) is still growing, largely garnered via national press attention and the fact a question on the topic was featured in a recent Question Time debate on BBC1.
Lewisham is a busy, thriving hospital serving a diverse borough. Millions of pounds were recently spent on refurbishing its local A&E unit, which is busy 24/7. With regards to maternity care, services have improved considerably in recent years and expectant mothers are very keen to give birth at its highly acclaimed state of the art birthing suite (opened in 2001 by then-health minister Anne Milton) because they know the care there is so good.
Midwives delivered 4,360 babies last year – does it really make economic sense to direct them to neighbouring borough hospitals, whose own maternity units there are overstretched? I genuinely fear that if the closure goes ahead it could put the lives of mothers and children at risk.
On Saturday, I will again be joining the march, alongside fellow borough residents, hospital workers, doctors, nurses, as well as our wonderful local midwives. The people have spoken Mr Hunt; we hope you are listening.
For more information on how you can support the campaign visit www.savelewishamhospital.com/