Mass sackings & A&E closures – proposed in South East London NHS

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Protesters outside the special adminstrator’s press conference yesterday
Protesters outside the special adminstrator’s press conference yesterday

PROPOSALS for mass sackings and closures of local A&E and Maternity units were yesterday revealed at a press conference called by the government-appointed administrator for South East London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT).

Trust Special Administrator Matthew Kershaw announced that his ‘draft recommendations on resolving fundamental financial problems’ at SLHT had earlier been delivered to health secretary Hunt.

Kershaw was appointed under Unsustainable Provider Regime legislation introduced by Labour in 2009.

He stressed: ‘The status quo is not sustainable’ and proposed the closure of Lewisham Hospital A&E and ‘possibly’ its acute Maternity unit.

He added to reporters that ‘there are some difficult and challenging decisions to be made’.

His first recommendation is that ‘the operational efficiency of the hospitals’ that make up SLHT ‘needs to improve’.

He said: ‘Their efficiences are a £79m opportunity.’

Asked if this meant staff cuts, Kershaw said: ‘Staffing being a large part of costs, there will be changes to staffing.’

He added that ‘going forward’ this applied to all south east London hospitals, including Guy’s, St Thomas’ and King’s College, warning ‘other acute trusts in south east London’ will also face the same measures.

Three hospitals make up South London Healthcare Trust: Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, The Princess Royal in Bromley and Queen Mary’s in Sidcup.

Kershaw announced the merger of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Lewisham hospital, to form a new organisation ‘focused on the provision of care for the communities of Greenwich and Lewisham.’

The SLHT has been bankrupted by a PFI contract covering Princess Royal and Queen Mary’s hospitals.

Kershaw said he is recommending the government (i.e. taxpayer) gives ‘£20m-£25m per annum’ to cover PFI costs ‘that the local NHS cannot afford’.

Doctor Jane Fryer, the South East London NHS medical director, emphasised that there would be no A&E in Lewisham.

She said Lewisham would be left with ‘enhanced urgent care services’ that would deal with ‘cuts and bruises and minor fractures’.

Kershaw announced plans for the Princess Royal to be taken over by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust ‘or to run a procurement process that would allow any provider from the NHS or independent (private) sector to bid to run services in the site’.

Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup, which has already lost its A&E, ‘should be developed into a Bexley Health Campus’ that ‘should be owned by Oxlea NHS Foundation Trust’.

‘Vacant and poorly utilised premises should be exited (leases) or sold (freholds).

‘The NHS should engage with the local authorities in Bromley and Bexley in the process of selling estate to ensure its future and maximise regeneration opportunities.’

Among a group of campaigners protesting outside the press conference, Lewisham resident Rita Carter told News Line: ‘Lewisham is one of the most densely populated boroughs in south east London.

‘If they close the A&E, there won’t be anywhere else for the people to go.

‘They don’t want to spend any money.

‘You cannot get an appointment from your doctor. whose going to help us?

‘They don’t care about us.’

Kershaw’s draft report will be followed by a thirty working days consultation with staff, patients and the public. A final report will be submitted to Health Secretary Hunt in January 2013 for a final decision in February.