Friday, 22 February 2013

Who says Al Capone is dead?

Lewisham's answer to the St. Valentine's day massacre

Ander McIntyre

What better way to enjoy Valentine's Day than a spot of direct action at the Department of Health? In Lewisham we don't celebrate in secret we go out in style! 

Red heart-shaped balloons, home-made bunting to festoon the streets of Westminster, posters galore inscribed with a message from the mothers, babies, children and people of Lewisham – 'Don't rip the heart out of our hospital, Mr Hunt' and hand-delivered baby sock rosebuds for Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, each with their own story of a baby born and saved by Lewisham Hospital. In Lewisham we don't go for subtle. We go for the jugular.

Last Thursday 14 February more than 130 babies, mums, dads, grannies and citizens of the London borough of Lewisham descended unannounced to pay a special Valentine's call on the Right Honorable Jeremy Hunt MP at his office. Sadly he did not join us to receive in person our heartfelt offerings but that didn't detract from a morning of peaceful but exuberant protest.

Our message was shouted load and proud: the fight to save Lewisham Hospital did not end with Jeremy Hunt's announcement on the 31st of January that acute services at Lewisham Hospital would be cut.

How can this small part of London have any relevance to the rest of the country and world? I hear you cry.
Ander McIntyre

The reason is this: Lewisham Hospital is a solvent and clinically well-respected healthcare provider. The fact that its fate hangs in the balance is purely financial because its vital services are being sacrificed to bail out the disastrous PFI contract that has drained to ruin neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust. So, according to Jeremy Hunt, it's now perfectly acceptable to remove obstetric-led maternity and emergency care from a population of nearly 280,000 just to balance his books. Nevermind the safety of thousands who use their hospital every day or the fact that neighbouring hospitals are full to bursting. No, the priority in healthcare these days is profitability.

The other reason is the small incidental detail that it seems the coalition government has an agenda to dismantle the welfare state. I grew up in the shadow of Thatcher so sweeping changes to benefits, education and health were a feature of my childhood and I recognise an unmandated eradication of public services when I see one.

Ander McIntyre

Lewisham Hospital is a test case for every hospital across the country. And the wholesale destruction of the NHS will have ramifications beyond our green and pleasant shores. Isn't the NHS held up as a shining light in international healthcare? If we lose healthcare that is free at the point of delivery what are we replacing it with and gone will be the days of a pioneering health model to be replicated across the globe.

Ander McIntyre

But the likes of Jeremy Hunt and the cabal in the Department of Health don't scare the residents of Lewisham. We're a plucky bunch and we're showing David Cameron what a Big Society can do when people join together and form a real community.

We're not going down without a big, public and embarrasing fight. The boys at Number 10 may think they can dismiss down-at-heel Lewisham with its massive population of refugees, asylum seekers, travellers, migrants and vulnerable families but they have underestimated the little people.

Ander McIntyre

The patronising arrogance of our well-oiled leaders will be their un-doing. We have strength and experience on our side. When many of our number have defied miliatry juntas, grown up behind the iron curtain of Communism and marched thousands of miles across deserts, steppes, plaines and the English Channel taking on a bunch of public school boys with their hands deep in McKinsey's pockets doesn't seem too much of a struggle. And, as most of us are unemployed good for nothings – in the eyes of our esteemed government – we might as well while away our days taking a stand for our hospital, our NHS and the future of Britain's Welfare State.

You can follow the campaign on facebook.

More photographs by Ander McIntyre

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The campaign to save Lewisham Hospital fights on!

Dear Andy Burnham,

My name is Jessica Ormerod. I am a Lewisham resident, mother of three 
and chair of the Lewisham maternity service committee. Our committee 
represents all maternity users in the borough of Lewisham. We work with 
senior clinicians, managers and commissioners to shape maternity 
services locally.

I congratulate you on your response to Jeremy Hunt in parliament 
yesterday. I am a member of the Labour Party and as such am incredibly 
proud that all three Lewisham MPs have tirelessly campaigned to protect 
our successful and solvent hospital.

Women in Lewisham are outraged by Jeremy Hunt's decision to accept 
Matthew Kershaw's recommendations in full. The down-graded Accident and 
Emergency department is no more than a confusing and obfuscatory charade 
to blind people to the fact that level three acute services will no 
longer be available within the borough of Lewisham.

You are absolutely right that the reconfiguration planned for SLHT and 
LHT sets a dangerous and alarming precedent for the entire NHS. If a 
successful and solvent hospital such as Lewisham can be sacrificed to 
bail out a neighbouring trust no hospital in the country is safe.

Jeremy Hunt's decision to accept Matthew Kershaw's recommendations mean 
that Lewisham mothers will be denied the choice to give birth locally 
with the support of obstetricians. Women have told our committee that 
even if they are deemed fit to use the facility (and the vast majority 
of women in Lewisham will not be able to even consider giving birth in a 
midwife led unit), they would not want to run the risk of a blue-light 
transfer. Women understand that childbirth is unpredictable: when a 
doctor is required they are required quickly.

Therefore, we ask you to take this to the highest level. This coalition 
will oversee the wholesale destruction of the NHS if a serious and 
coordinated opposition is not set against their idealogical vendetta 
which has no electoral mandate.

It is a moral outrage that acute services can be removed from an entire 
London borough with a population of 250,000.

Yours sincerely,

Jessica Ormerod

Friday, 1 February 2013

The fairytale of Lewisham

Once upon a time in a land quite close to where we live now there was a hospital loved by patients, doctors and public alike. All the mummies and daddies and neighbours knew that they were safe because the hospital had all the right machines and clever doctors and nurses to look after the families of Lewisham if they got ill.

All until one day when a bumbling accountant came to town. An evil enchantment had been put on the accountant by the wicked magician Mckinsey and so the poor man could only see the world in pound notes. But children, it wasn't real money, it was the money of accountancy – a special kind of money that can disappear with a slight of hand.

The evil magician Mckinsey wanted all the hospital's money for himself and so he told the accountant to close the hospital to 'rationalise services'. All the people of Lewisham cried, 'Oh no! Don't take our lovely hospital – we love it so!'. But the naughty magician had made the accountant deaf and so he couldn't hear the people and carried on only thinking about money.

At this time, a Huntsman looked out from his tower. When he saw the people of Lewisham crying in the streets and shouting in protest he whispered to his friends, 'Who are these people? Why do they fuss? Don't they know that the evil magician McKinsey knows what's best for them? Don't they want the shiny hospital in the next kingdom we are offering them? Never mind that it's got no transport links, no matter that there will be too many people using it. People don't really need local emergency services, do they?'.

So the people of Lewisham shouted louder and refused to leave their hospital. They sent envoys to far away kingdoms to warn them that the Huntsman and the evil magician would visit them next to rationalise their services out of their hands and sell off their land to strange companies.

However, the Huntsman had forgotten that he lived in a democracy and was in danger of losing his tower. He then suddenly remembered a tale from the town he came from, where he had heard that in years gone by his hospital had also been threatened by the great dragon Austerity. He vaguely recalled that he had been one of the men who had slain the dragon and rescued the hospital.

As these memories broke through the fog of the spell cast on him by McKinsey: he was emboldened and drove the evil wizard from his tower.

Lewisham Hospital was saved and there was rejoicing across the land.

So sleep well dear children for this is only a fairy story and Level 3 acute care remains in the borough of Lewisham.