Sunday, 17 February 2013

I love Lewisham Hospital - but that's not why it should be saved

The below is a comment I posted on this Guardian article, about the widespread misconceptions on WHY people are fighting for their local hospitals:


As a supporter of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and the broader fight to Save our NHS, I really have found the patronising rhetoric that MPs have used when talking about local peoples' reactions to NHS reconfigurations to be extremely offensive.

I was born in Lewisham Hospital. But I don't for one minute think that, in and of itself, is relevant to any debate on its survival.

What is relevant, in my opinion, is that my birth, my mum's second, became very complicated quite out of the blue and it was due to the expertise of the maternity staff, way back in 1986, that we're both alive. If the proposals go through and another mum goes through a similar experience to what my mum went through all those years ago, she will have to be shipped off to a hospital six miles away to get emergency treatment. That's not sentimental; that's just a fact.

I agree that it's not helpful when local MPs use emotive language about how "upset and angry" their residents are about service downgrades, as if that's going to make any difference. It just feeds into the (wrongful) belief that protests against changes are mere outpourings of emotion, rooted in sentimentality.

Speaking on Lewisham Hospital in Parliament a couple of weeks back, Lord Patten said: "On every occasion, however understandable, attachments to institutions and to buildings that have been there for a long time are always trumped by patient outcomes and patient care"

I completely agree. Problem is, the Lewisham A&E decision was nothing to do with patient care and all to do with money. Lewisham campaigners aren't campaigning simply because they have an "attachment" to Lewisham Hospital. They are campaigning because the decision to downgrade it has been rushed, has not been backed up by "clear clinical evidence" (one of the Tories' four tests) and is opposed by every single local GP and clinician on the grounds that it puts lives at risk.

Bruce Keogh said that a smaller A&E at Lewisham Hospital would still see up to 75% of patients. He also (apparently) told Jeremy Hunt that the overall South London Healthcare Trust changes could save up to 100 lives a year. Lewisham consultants wrote a formal letter to him asking him to back up his claims. His reply contained not a single figure - instead, he said that "It's not an exact science".

That is why we are fighting for Lewisham. Not because the hospital is "the heart of the community", or because we don't understand the need for change or tough choices, but because the decision to downgrade its services has been made for the wrong reasons and if we allow the plans to proceed, people will pay with their lives.

[end rant]

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