Friday, 9 November 2012

Lewisham mobilises to stop NHS cuts

Protestors fill up yet another overspill meeting in Lewisham
Last night, the residents and workers of Lewisham mobilised in an impressive show of strength to protest against the threats to their National Health Services.

The huge turnout to the protest meeting was in response to the announcement by the 'special administrator' of proposals that would probably mean:

• The closure of Lewisham Hospital's Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit,
• A £36 million cut in staffing, leading to hundreds of NHS staff losing their jobs

• The closure of Lewisham hospital maternity unit
• The privatisation of many NHS services in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.

It was difficult to judge exactly how many people turned up. That's because, as there were so many of us - perhaps 700 or more -  that we had to squeeze into about four different meeting places while speakers shuttled from venue to venue to get their message across!

I ended up in the Calabash Centre, packed in with hundreds of other angry but determined people. Great speeches from healthworkers such as a Lewisham A&E nurse and a local GP, Louise Irvine, set the tone for the meeting. She held up a map showing the plans to sell-off two-thirds of the hospital site.

There was a determined mood to fight these cuts and a confidence that grew throughout the evening that, if we organise, we can successfully defend our health services.

I gave my support on behalf of the NUT and asked exactly how a child injured at school - or at home - was meant to be speedily ferried across the busy streets of London all the way to QEH in Woolwich, or to overstretched King's in Denmark Hill, if Lewisham A&E closes. I also called on trade unionists to use their strength to fight cuts, including through taking strike action.

Not everyone was happy with the contribution of Lewisham's Labour Mayor Steve Bullock who didn't seem ready to follow the lead of Ealing Council and put the full resources of the Council behind the campaign. Lewisham Council should be mobilising opposition right across the borough - and using its scrutiny powers to help defeat this attack.

Neither were people prepared to go along with any suggestion of 'divide-and-rule', where politicians campaign to save Lewisham's hospital - but call for cuts elsewhere instead. This has to be a united campaign to stop health cuts right across South London and to demand the privatisers and PFI bloodsuckers get their hands of our NHS!

Everyone will now be building for a massive turnout at the demonstration on Saturday November 24, assembling at Loampit Vale roundabout at 2pm and marching to link hands around Lewisham Hospital at 3pm.

There's more information - including advice on how to respond to the consultation  - on

The details of meetings where residents can tell the 'special administrator' to his face about what they think of his plans include:

16th November, Goldsmiths College, SE14 6NW, 10:00 - 12:00 
26th November, Bromley Court Hotel, BR1 4JD, 10:00 - 12:00 
26th November, St. Andrews Centre, SE4 2SA, 14:00 - 16:00 
4th December, Calabash Day Centre, SE13 6HH, 19:00 - 21:00

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