JFHC editor Penny Hosie argues that the proposed cuts to Lewisham's A&E and maternity services are fundamentally flawed and will adversely affect a population which is one of the country's most deprived:
My local hospital's A&E department and some of its maternity services are under threat.
Drastic cuts are being proposed to these departments in Lewisham hospital to partly cover the crippling PPI debts accrued by the neigbouring South London Healthcare Trusts (SLHT).
The consultation period ends today - and yet it has been quick - some would say "rushed" - and the proposals do not include a health and inequalities impact assessment. I share the view of many that this is a basic and fundamental flaw.
The local people are angry. Three weekends ago I joined an estimated 12,000-15,000 of them on a cold, rainy Saturday to protest against the closures. Some of the doctors and consultants who work at the hospital spoke of fears that if the closures go ahead, Lewisham will go from being a thriving teaching hospital renowned for its excellent care to a shadow of its former self.Some say this will then be repeated throughout local authorities across the UK.
Lewisham is the 16th most deprived local authority area in England out of 326 authorities. It serves a population of 750,000, a figure which is set to rise due to regeneration in pockets throughout Lewisham. The proposals suggest people can attend other local hospitals in Greenwich, King's and St Thomas's, but doesn't answer peoples' legitimate fears over how difficult this will be for some of the borough's most vulnerable and deprived patients, of which there are many.
It has also not assessed how the additional journey time will put critical patients' lives at risk. Lewisham's Director of Children's Services Tony O'Sullivan is so concerned has written a letter to Mr Kershaw, the appointed administrator of the SLHT to express his fears.
In it he points out some health inequalities, when compared to neighbouring boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley. In it he says:
- Lewisham & Greenwich share the worst life expectancy for males;
- Lewisham has the worst life expectancy for females
- Lewisham has the highest disability rate (20.4%) amongst adults 16-64
He also points out that:
-Lewisham has the highest birth rate
- Lewisham has the highest population of children under 5
- Lewisham has the youngest age profile of children under 16
- Lewisham has the 2nd highest teenage conception rate in London & joint 3rd highest in England
O'Sullivan argues the proposed closure of the maternity unit will "break the relationship between midwives and obstetricians and local community midwives and health visitors."
He also points out another flaw of the consultation document, to do with the neglect of children (who comprise 20% of the population of Lewisham), saying it is a "terrible omission".
He says: "Those that know better cherish our children as our future and realise how vulnerable they are, especially in an area of deprivation such as Lewisham. Those who work in Lewisham have chosen to take on that challenge to work in our community and help it achieve its full potential. We seek to offer excellent services locally where they are needed and where they are accessible. That is why we have built up: excellent acute children's ED and inpatient services, excellent outpatient services with close links to tertiary specialties; the unique Kaleidoscope Centre bringing together the partnership of community health, mental health (Lewisham CAMHS), Lewisham Education and Social Care; and exceptional special needs nursing and home-care community nursing teams. Our mental health colleagues are working so hard with our children's ED and inpatient to support children and young people in mental health crisis - these relationships will also be destroyed."
The consultation period ends at midnight tonight.
To read the letter in full: www.savelewishamhospital.com/director-of-childrens-services-personal-response/
To view the document proposal in full: https://research.ipsosinteractive.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=S1007634&ID