HEALTH workers, trade unionists, pensioners and residents from the SE London boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley are marching today against plans to close University Hospital, Lewisham as a District General Hospital.

The demonstration is assembling at 11am outside All Saints Church, Blackheath, and marching along Belmont Hill to Lewisham Hospital via the High Street.

Under the ‘A Picture of Health’ (APOH) plans for ‘service reconfiguration’ in the Outer South East London (health) Service, only two of the four hospitals in the four boroughs would survive as District General Hospitals.

‘NHS London’, the Strategic Health Authority for London, has asked the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) to carry out a review of service provision in South East London.

NCAT favours ‘Option 3’ in the planned ‘service reconfiguration’, under which Lewisham Hospital would lose A&E, maternity, paediatrics, 24-hour surgery and anaesthetics, intensive care and imaging, and effectively cease to function as a hospital.

John Collins, Secretary Lewisham Local Government Branch told News Line yesterday: ‘We’ve got this consultation document which is impossible to understand.

‘I never saw it as a consultation paper at all anyway, I just thought it was a dictat.

‘One of the so-called options is to close the A&E, which is a mad idea.

‘Of course people from across Lewisham, Greenwich and beyond are going to be affected.

‘It’s common sense, we have to save this hospital and that’s something that involves all the trade unions.’

Today’s march is backed by Lewisham Trades Council, the National Union of Teachers, Keep Our NHS Public and Greenwich and Lewisham Pensioners’ Forums.

‘A Picture of Health’ makes clear what its guiding principle is under the headline ‘Money’.

It claims: ‘Together, the NHS in four boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham has been spending more than its budget.

‘The overspend at around £400,000 per week cannot be allowed to continue.’

Today’s demonstration follows a march through Bexley on 1st March, when more than 2,000 marchers said NO to the axing of Queen Mary’s Sidcup A&E and maternity units.

Lewisham Council has passed a motion opposing the APOH plans.

The motion warned: ‘All the Picture of Health proposals are totally reliant on more emergency ambulances and a considerable increase in travel by patients and their families around the already congested south-east London area.’