Opinion Former Article

Unite: March to save Lewisham A&E and maternity units on Saturday

Hundreds of Lewisham residents in South London are expected to protest on Saturday (26 January) against proposals to shut the A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham hospital.

Unite, the largest union in the country, said what was happening in Lewisham – the dismantlement of NHS provision so that it could be sold off to the private sector for profit – was a mirror image of what was going to happen across England in the coming months.

The union says that the closure is another broken Tory-led coalition promise and warns that the axe is falling heaviest on A&E services based in some of the most deprived communities.

WHERE: Assemble at Lewisham roundabout (by the DLR station) for a march past Lewisham hospital and ending with a rally in Mountsfield Park.
WHEN: Saturday, 26 January 2013, at 12pm

The march is in protest over proposals to shut the A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham Hospital – as the debt-ridden South London Healthcare (SLH) NHS faces becoming the first trust in the country to be broken up for privatisation.

If the proposals get the go-ahead from health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Lewisham could be merged Woolwich’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital which is saddled with debt due to its Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts – and this will severely hit local services for Lewisham residents.

Steve Turner, Unite executive director of policy and local resident, who will be speaking at the rally said: “When the future of a solvent and well-run A&E department like Lewisham, serving 750,000 residents can simply be wiped out, what hope is there for other hospitals starved of resources?

“If we don’t stand together to expose the litany of broken promises we’ve been pedalled by this government the whole NHS will be privatised before our very eyes.

“Jeremy Hunt needs to think very carefully because the residents of Lewisham have already shown that they will not rollover to allow patients in south east London to face a NHS run by private companies and so-called social enterprises.”

Unite head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “Across London and beyond the campaign to save hospitals from the axe is gathering momentum.

"There is a pattern emerging - Ealing, central Manchester and Lewisham - all communities in need and all communities who will suffer heavily from this government's assault on their health service.

"This government is deliberately running down our NHS so that its private sector friends can swoop, but we will not let them return us to the days when a doctor would feel your wallet before he took your pulse.

"The fight in Lewisham will be mirrored across England as the government’s NHS privatisation plans are ramped up, and more and more communities find their local services being sacrificed on the altar of misguided privatisation.”

Despite 90 per cent of responses to a recent consultation against the cuts, the whole future of out-patients at Lewisham is in doubt. A decision on its future is expected in early February when Jeremy Hunt is due to announce his decision.

Since its formation in 2009, the SLH trust – which covers the Princess Royal University Hospital (Bromley), Queen Mary’s Hospital (Sidcup) and Woolwich’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital – has chalked more than £200 million in debt.

ENDS

For further information please contact Unite campaign officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774 146777 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey. 

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