Working with local campaigners to save the Royal Surrey County Hospital’s A&E department from closure. A 6,000-strong rally, packed public meetings and a candle-lit vigil at Parliament all forced the local Primary Care Trust to keep the area’s vital resource open.
Strangely this quote has disappeared from his website, but Google still has a cache of it.
Spotted by eagle-eyed reader David Porter.
Heidi Alexander MP asked the following to Jeremy Hunt (from Hansard):
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East, Labour)
Last week, the Secretary of State refused my request to meet a small group of local GPs, hospital doctors and residents who are opposed to the closure of accident and emergency and maternity at Lewisham hospital, yet in his former role he seemed very happy to trade hundreds of texts with Rupert Murdoch’s lobbyists about the purchase of BSkyB by News Corp. Why is it one rule for Rupert Murdoch’s lobbyists and another for doctors in Lewisham?
Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey, Conservative)
I think that the hon. Lady might perhaps read Lord Leveson’s conclusions before she starts hurling about allegations, many of which came from her side of the House, that were later shown to be totally false. With respect to the decision on Lewisham hospital, I thought that we had a very useful meeting last night with the south London MPs who are directly affected. She understands that the process put into law by her party and her Government means that I cannot reopen the entire consultation and start seeing some groups without seeing all groups that are affected. That is why I am limiting the discussions I have with colleagues, but I think that that is the right thing to do.
The Blackheath Society has emailed its members:
Further to our email yesterday regarding the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign we have now been asked to let you know about an additional mass rally which is taking place on the same day – 26 January to highlight all the other plans to cut the local health services. All those who care about their local hospitals and health services are being urged to join this rally starting on Blackheath – near All Saints Church – at 12 noon. The group will move on to join the Lewisham campaigners who are meeting at the roundabout near Lewisham station and all will march to the rally in Mountsfield Park.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org 020 8856 3682
So the consultation results are in. Apparently it’s a great idea to close Lewisham A&E and maternity wards. I’m sure that’s what you all sent to the consultation.
Email from our local MP Heidi Alexander (emphasis mine):
Thank you again for signing the petition to save Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and maternity department, which I presented to No. 10 just before Christmas. Over 35,000 people have now signed the petition, and together we are sending a loud and clear message that we strongly oppose the plans for closure.
Despite this, we learnt this week that the Special Administrator appointed to the South London Healthcare Trust has formally recommended to Government that both A&E and maternity services at Lewisham should close. He proposes to replace them with an urgent care centre and a midwife-led birthing unit.
Many people – including me – feel badly let down by the so-called consultation process that has taken place. It is sheer madness to be shutting down services at a solvent, successful hospital in order to deal with financial problems elsewhere. I am also extremely concerned about the inadequate services that will be left for South East London – just this week the two closest maternity units, at Queen Elizabeth, Woolwich and Kings, had to turn away pregnant women in labour as they were at capacity.
But this is not a done deal, and together we must keep up the fight.
The Health Secretary is currently considering these proposals, and will be announcing his decision on 1st February. Along with my parliamentary colleagues Dame Joan Ruddock and Jim Dowd, I will be doing all that I can to convince the Health Secretary of the case against these proposals. But we need your help.
Between now and 1st February, please do all that you can to help the campaign. If you have 5 minutes or 5 days, there are lots of ways you can get involved. At the bottom of this email, there are specific contacts and things you can do to help – for example, leafleting, making placards or being a steward at campaign events.
If you can only spare a little time, please do the following:
- Protest against the proposals. The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign have organised a second peaceful demonstration on Saturday 26th January. Assemble at Lewisham Roundabout (by the station) at 12, before we march past the hospital to Mountsfield Park for a rally, music and giant petition. I will be speaking at the rally.
- Let the Secretary of State know what you think by sending your views directly to him. Email Jeremy Hunt on email@example.com or write to him at Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, Department for Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS
- Forward this email on to your friends. Spread the word about the campaign! This does not only affect the people of Lewisham, and Mr Hunt needs to know that people across South East London are not prepared to accept these recommendations and have their services and their safety compromised.
The campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital is far from over. We must be prepared to step up and make our voices heard. I hope we can count upon your support.
Heidi Alexander MP
There’s a plan to close the A&E unit at Lewisham hospital. This is a bad thing. Please sign the petition, write to your mp, and attend the march on Saturday 24th November at 2pm.
Also tell the special adminsitrator what you think and why. Advice on how to complete the form from the savelewishamhospital website:
If you don’t understand questions 1-6, just click ‘strongly disagree’ or ‘next’. (Q1 – Q3 relate to ‘financial efficiency’. Q4 – Q6 relate to Queen Mary’s Sidcup becoming a ‘health campus’)
Answer ‘strongly disagree’ to question 7 if you can – it relates to selling off hospital buildings. They want to sell 60% of Lewisham Hospital’s buildings. Once they are gone, there is no turning back.
If you don’t understand questions 8 to 12, click ‘strongly disagree or ‘next’. (Q8 – Q12 relate to PFI and community care. It is worth noting there is no suggestion to re-negotiate the PFI debt. So it would still be paid in full, from your taxes, but would come out of the Department of Health’s budget)
Answer ‘strongly disagree’ to question 13! It is about Lewisham A&E. And use question 14 to tell them why you want to save it and any ideas you may have.
Answer ‘neither of these options’ to question 15! – This is a complex question about maternity services. If the A&E closes, they may have to close the maternity wards (obstetric-led units) because emergencies during labour could be risky.
Question 16. This is a place to say you believe Lewisham A&E is crucial to safe maternity care in Lewisham Hospital, so please don’t close either.
Question 17 – 20, keep clicking ‘strongly disagree’ or ‘next’ if you like. (Q17-18 relate to surgery. Q19-20 relate to merging South London and Lewisham trusts.)
Question 21 wants to know if you want Kings College Hospital or another (maybe private) company to run Princess Royal Hospital, Farnborough. Click next or support Kings taking over.
Question 22 wants to know if you would like some debts at South London Hospital to be written off. Support that idea, or click ‘next’.
Click through questions 23 and 24 if you want. Or write any comments you may want to make in question 24.
You have to answer question 25.
Answer the remaining questions about you. You do not need to say you live in Lewisham or that Lewisham is your nearest hospital, if that is the case. To date, the administrator has undermined our opposition by portraying it as local selfishness. So, if you don’t want the administrator to argue that only people in Lewisham oppose his plans, don’t let them know you are in Lewisham (if you aren’t in Lewisham, please answer the questions).
SUBMIT the form. Make sure you don’t fall asleep before submitting the form.
Part of an email last week from Heidi Alexander MP:
I am extremely concerned about these proposals. I don’t see why Lewisham should pay the price for financial failures elsewhere in the NHS. I believe the A&E departments at other hospitals such as Kings and Woolwich are already at capacity and I am very concerned about the impact that the proposed changes could have on patient safety. I also believe local mums should be able to have their babies in their local hospital and that it is just wrong to ask women and their families to travel to unfamiliar places to give birth.
Yesterday I set up a petition which calls for a full, admitting A&E and full maternity service to be retained at Lewisham. You can sign the petition by clicking on the link below:
I will also be speaking at a public meeting about the proposals next Thursday (8 November 2012). The meeting will be from 6pm to 8pm and will take place at the Lessoff Auditorium, Lewisham Hospital . It would be great to see you there.
It would also be useful if you could encourage everyone you know to sign the petition, so feel free to forward this email to your contacts. We have a huge fight on our hands and the community needs to be clear in its opposition to these proposals.
From 853blog today:
Failing Blackheath Bluecoat School Faces Closure
I know next to nothing about schools in this area, I’m ashamed to say. Being just the wrong age – no kids yet, and too old to have have gone to school around here, I try to avoid writing about subjects I have no experience of (hence the endless posts about wandering down the high street).
Bluecoats is highly visible on Twitter, and I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this. It’s always sad when a school has problems.
Here’s the very polite graffiti left on the window of Blackheath Library. It doesn’t seem like enough of a protest. I wonder when is the last day that library users are allowed to borrow books from the library, and how many they are each allowed to borrow. I wonder if someone chaining themselves between the railings either side of the railway bridge on a busy Monday morning might have more effect than all of the alternative proposals, plans, and half-baked Big Society alternatives. The loss of a local library is intellectual theft from anybody who used to use it. And if any local luminaries feel like blaming it on the current government, or the previous government, then please don’t. We know. In the words of Uncle Monty “Shat on by Tories, shovelled up by Labour.”
Spotted on a tree along Pond Road, a “farewell to Blackheath Library” poster:
Blackheath Village LIbrary Users’ Group
Farewell To Blackheath Library
Please join us for a meeting to mark the closure, on May 27th 2011, of our village library.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday 17 May from 7-8.30pm at the Bakehouse, Bennett Park, (behind Age Exchange).
We shall thank our supporters and librarians, and formally wind up the Users’ Group. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Wine and soft drinks will be available for a donation on the night.
Any queries to se3villagelibrary (at) yahoo.co.uk or 020 8852 4032.
I hope the councillors who agreed to close it have the balls to attend.
UPDATE: My Latin typo corrected (I blame comprehensive educayshun you know….)
Lucy Mangan of the Grauniad TV reviews will be reading from her book The Reluctant Bride in a shameless bid to save Blackheath Library at 2pm on Saturday. What’s that you say? Maybe it is her favourite book! Why shouldn’t her favourite book be one that she wrote herself, for goodness sake? The trouble with you people is that you are far too cynical.
On another note, Sir Ian Mills of Age Exchange wrote me a very valid email, pointing out that whilst my post “Pay a tenner to find out what will happen to your library” was factually correct, it was also extremely bad tempered. He has a point. I had a hangover. On a school night. Sorry. If you want to look at Age Exchange’s plans for the library, they are on display inside their shop. You should go regardless, it’s a great place.
Nonetheless, some of the comments below the post raise some interesting questions:
- This seems to me to be the most significant issue: If Age Exchange hadn’t stepped in to offer the council this alternative, wouldn’t there have been more pressure on Lewisham council not to close the library? Isn’t this just giving them an easy get-out?
- Is this a way for Age Exchange to expand its profile, maintain its funding, and by merging itself with the library, ensure that it cannot be easily removed from the high street? The first role of any organisation is to maintain its own existence, even if it is a charity.
- Why should local library-goers be encouraged to donate £30 per year to maintain a library service that up until this year was provided by the local council?
- Darryl claims that Greenwich Council has decided to cease funding for Age Exchange. Does Greenwich Council contribute funds to Age Exchange? (I couldn’t see any mention of them on their funding page).
- The current library is funded by Lewisham council, but Age Exchange is in the Greenwich Council part of Blackheath. How will this issue be resolved?
I’ve written before about how much I like the Age Exchange Centre. It’s great. But by offering Mayor Bullock a Big-Society-friendly way to downgrade the status of the current library, it may have done more harm than good. Maybe lobbying the current owners of the existing library building to reduce or forgo the rent could have been a better strategy, which is now unavailable to the BVLUG, as the anti-closure lobby is effectively split between two positions.
From the library meeting last week, it seems likely that the library will move into Age Exchange. It will cost £500,000 and take 18 months. Looks like a done deal:
Blackheath library proposed closure – Age Exchange proposal PDF file – (will try and convert to text when I can).
There’s more inside the resource centre at Age Exchange.
UPDATE: Full text below:
Lewisham Council are planning to close Blackheath Library.
The final meeting that they are holding takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) evening at 7.30pm, in Blackheath Halls. This is a far easier location for people who actually use the library, so please, if you care at all about the library being shut, please come along.