South London NHS Trust was taken into administration in July, because it was massively underfunded. Four hospitals were left in limbo until 29 October when the administrator announced their plans.
A neighbouring Trust, Lewisham Healthcare will suffer, with its A&E, some surgery, and maternity services all threatened with closure.
Lewisham Hospital is a small Trust, struggling to resist merger by applying for Foundation Trust status. A previous consultation had already proposed the closure of Lewisham’s A&E. In the event, the A&E in Sidcup was closed and the South London NHS Trust was formed.
Lewisham is a densely populated area. Its A&E became noticeably busier after the Sidcup closure, and sometimes the maternity services in the whole region are so stretched that Lewisham residents have to be sent to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital at the other side of London when they’re in labour.
The staff at Lewisham hospital have responded with alarm at the threatened closures, and local NHS campaigns have combined with the BMA, UNISON, and local Labour MPs to have a campaigning meeting on 8 November.
It is a positive development that the unions are becoming involved in the campaign at Lewisham, as workers’ involvement will be key; but solidarity is our main weapon, so we must link up on a regional, city-wide and national basis to ensure that campaigns are not played off against each other.
The National Health Service, is a network of health facilities; to function it must remain so. The government’s strategy has long been to divide it up and sell it off bit by bit.
For the government, this is part of a wider strategy not to “waste a crisis” and to cut back on all services. For us the NHS is literally the right to life. With all its problems, the NHS allows the population to access healthcare regardless of their income.
The fight is not over yet. Wherever services are threatened there will be local opposition. We must engage with these struggles wherever they arise, and help to link them up, providing resistance to render these cuts unworkable.