The arguments for cuts at Lewisham Hospital don’t stack up

January 25, 2013 4:08 pm

This weekend I will join thousands of people to march against the proposed closure of the Accident & Emergency and Maternity Unit at Lewisham Hospital.  Lewisham’s Labour MPs and Labour Mayor have supported local campaigners and worried residents to try and persuade the government to change course on this disastrous proposal.

The reasons given for closing these two vital services do not stack up.  The proposal to close the hospital’s successful A&E and maternity unit is for short-term financial reasons alone.  The consultation does not take into account the longer term impact closure would have on a large area of South London, including Lambeth and Southwark.  Lewisham contains some of the most deprived communities in London and it is vital that they have access to high quality NHS services.

Between 2001 and 2010, the population of Lewisham grew by 15,700, or 6.2%. Lewisham is the 15th most ethnically diverse borough in England with 2 out of every 5 resident coming from a black and minority ethnic background.  As a South London borough, similar to Lambeth where I’m a councillor, it is no surprise that the largest BME groups are Black African and Black Caribbean – together these two groups comprise around 30% of the total population of Lewisham.

The catchment area of Lewisham Hospital has a high population of sickle cell patients who require outpatient treatment and A&E support to help treat this disease which affects people of African heritage.  The Lewisham PCT Public Health report estimates that this 30% of the Lewisham Population (79,468 people) have a higher rate of sickle cell disease at birth than in any other area in the UK (GLA Round Ethnic Group Population Projections). Lewisham Hospital currently has a specialist Clinical Nurse Specialist who monitors both ward and A&E attendance of the Sickle Cell Patients, helping the patients and their families to plan any additional care, referrals or hospital admissions.

The recommendations as proposed by the Trust Special Administrator appointed to lead the review states that there will be a 15% drop in outpatient activity if the proposed closure of the A&E and maternity unit go ahead.  The official reply to the consultation by leading Emergency Department Consultations slams these figures and states:

the draft report is based on demonstrably incorrect figures and assumptions, its findings cannot be relied upon”

Why am I interested in how Sickle Cell patients will be effected if the A&E and Maternity Unit close at Lewisham Hospital? Because my mother suffers from Sickle Cell Anaemia and I have acted as her carer for most of my life.

Trying to explain the disease to people can sometimes be difficult.  There is still not enough awareness about the disease outside the BME community.  I recall when my mother was suddenly taken ill when we were out shopping in the West End. She was suffering from intense pain and my sisters and I were trying to explain to the staff that she needed urgent hospital treatment and for them to call an ambulance. They didn’t understand when we tried to explain that she was having a ‘crisis’ because as far as they were concerned, she didn’t show any visible signs of bleeding or injury.

I also remember the summer of 1997 after my GCSEs when my mother fell ill and suffered a crisis whilst we were visiting my aunt in Lewisham.  The care and support she received from the A&E department was second to none; the doctors had a full understanding of the disease and treatment that my mother needed.

The data from the Lewisham PCT Public Health report highlights the fact that there are more admissions from women sufferers of Sickle Cell, so women will be disproportionately affected by any proposals to close the A&E department. Kings College Hospital have a team of dedicated staff who care for Sickle Cell patients, but they will be stretched beyond the limit in dealing with additional patients from Lewisham if this closure goes ahead as planned.

I urge everybody from the BME community as well as others to join the campaign to save this vital service.  The chances are you will know somebody who suffers from Sickle Cell and so it is important that we raise awareness about what’s happening.  The proposals will not only affect Lewisham residents, but a wide catchment area across South London. We have to campaign together to send a message to the Government not to dismantle vital NHS services for some of the most deprived communities in our country.

Florence Nosegbe is a Councillor in Brixton Hill Ward Councillor, Lambeth 

  • http://twitter.com/renieanjeh Renie Anjeh

    Brilliant article, couldn’t agree more!

Latest

  • Comment Labour can change the false narrative with a reality check

    Labour can change the false narrative with a reality check

    A false narrative has developed about Labour that must be rejected comprehensively by a party aiming to govern in six months. It claims that Labour has become alienated from virtually the entire electorate. Our response to date has been ineffective. Here are some suggestions for how we may succeed in future. Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. We should take heed and refuse to be cowed by something as illusory as a […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour consider selling off central London buildings to help pay off debts

    Labour consider selling off central London buildings to help pay off debts

    The Labour leadership say they would consider selling off QEII Conference Centre and the Civil Service Club – alongside two other buildings in London – to help pay off the country’s debt. They say they selling off these government-owned buildings could raise up to £100m, and would be part of a “fairer way” of reducing the deficit. Alongside selling off the QEII conference centre and the Civil Service Club, Labour are also thinking about selling Marlborough House, which is near Buckingham […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Gordon Brown to announce departure as an MP “within days”

    Former Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to resign as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath “within days” according to a report from the Sunday Mirror. Brown, who played a key role in the Scottish referendum campaign this year – giving a barnstorming speech on the eve of the vote that defined the case for the union. Brown’s rumoured departure follows his long-time ally Alistair Darling’s decision to quit Parliament in 2015. The Sunday Mirror reports: “Gordon Brown will […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Findlay says information going to party members for leadership vote is “insulting”

    Neil Findlay MSP, who is running to be leader of the Scottish Labour Party, is calling on the Labour Party to clarify what information will be given to members with Leadership ballot papers. At the moment it looks as though the booklet with candidate statements in it only lists the nominations each candidate received from Parliamentarians and not from Constituency Labour Parties, trade Unions or socialist societies. In response to this, Findlay has released the following statement: “Over the last […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    It’s Ukip that offends working class sentiment

    After this week’s Twitter row at the Rochester by-election, I am using my keynote speech to the Labour East Regional Conference today to say that it is UKIP who truly offends working class sentiment and represents a party which is fundamentally un-British. Today I am lucky to serve as a Euro MP but, like many in our movement, I grew up on a council estate living in poverty, so don’t need any lectures from UKIP about snobbery. First, we can’t counter UKIP […]

    Read more →