GP demands meeting with Jeremy Hunt over A&E closure

A GP leading a campaign to save a London hospital's A&E and consultant-led maternity unit has threatened to 'embarrass' health secretary Jeremy Hunt unless he agrees to meet protesters.

Dr Louise Irvine: Jeremy Hunt must meet protesters
Dr Louise Irvine: Jeremy Hunt must meet protesters

The two health departments, at Lewisham Hospital in south east London look set to be replaced with an urgent care centre and a midwife-led maternity unit after a trust administrator proposed the measures this week.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to make a final decision on the proposals early next month but is refusing to meet local clinicians. When Mr Hunt was asked in the House of Commons by Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander to meet members of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign he refused but said that he would meet MPs. The campaign, founded by local GP Dr Louise Irvine, has amassed 25,173 signatures on a petition opposing the changes.

Dr Irvine, a BMA council member and a founder of a political party set up to oppose government NHS reforms, said: ‘We are going to go back and ask him to meet us, with representatives from the CCG. If he doesn’t we will embarrass him and stage a protest.

‘Lewisham CCG opposes it and so do the consultants. There is not one local clinician that supports the measures. The CCG has been quite exceptional in working closely with the hospital and the council and we are going to lose that and not be able to make innovation in care pathways.'

Dr Irvine said the proposals would have a negative impact on GPs. ‘It will make work a lot more miserable. It will be hard. We won’t be able to get a second opinion as easily. The bigger hospitals are more remote. You can’t get through to people as easily,’ she said.

A DH spokesman said: ‘Where trusts face long standing problems we have been clear that doing nothing is not an option. It is crucial that patients in south east London have high quality health services that will last.

‘There isn’t an easy solution to the problems at South London Healthcare NHS Trust.  The secretary of state has received the recommendations from the trust special administrator which he will carefully consider and will announce his final decision by early February 2013.’

The administrator that recommended the changes at Lewisham Hospital does not run the hospital. The administrator was appointed to take charge of South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT), which runs three south east London hospitals in Bexley, Woolwich and Bromley. The move was taken last July when the trust began losing around £1.3m a week.

Administrator Matthew Kershaw has projected a £207m deficit for SLHT at the end of this financial year. Nearby Lewisham Healthcare Trust, which runs Lewisham Hospital, is currently not in deficit but Mr Kershaw projects it will return one in 2014/15.

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