First of all, it was brilliant to be part of the 15,-20,000 who marched through Lewisham on Saturday, in the rain, to express our support for the fight to get these plans changed.
The consultation meeting at Bromley Court Hotel was held this morning. It was well run and well chaired. Matthew Kershaw, the Trust Special Administrator and his team ran over the issues and problems facing South London Health Trust and funding of health service provision in this area. Many questions were asked over the detail of the plans. The timetable was confirmed that consultation will close on December 13th and the final report has to be presented to the Secretary of State by January 7th.
I raised a number of issues pertinent to the Beckenham/Penge area.
The Consultation itself. No consultation meetings have been arranged for our area. Orpington, Bromley and Lewisham all have their own meetings – sometimes more than one, but Bromley Court Hotel today was the nearest to us. The panel shuffled uneasily at this but said they were holding far in excess of the statutory requirement of one consultation meeting.
The lack of a consultation meeting in our area demonstrates to me that the authors of the report had not properly understood the relationship of people here to their health services. Because we look towards both Bromley and Lewisham, we face two possible hits from the proposals; the withdrawal of current services at Beckenham Beacon and the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, taking away its urgent and emergency admissions. The panel said that all responses would be considered. The response details are repeated at the end of this report.
Beckenham Beacon As we know, South London Health Trust are withdrawing from providing services at Beckenham Beacon. The new Clinical Commissioning Group, taking over from the PCT, will commission replacement services. The panel could not give any assurances as to what those services might be and who might provide them. The representatives from the CCG would not be drawn either, though did say they wanted to bring many services closer to the people. They would be listening carefully to the community and that there will be more details in the final report published on January 7th. We will have a chance to return to this but it seems vital that we respond to the consultation by making clear which services we value highly at Beckenham Beacon.
Lewisham Hospital It is all very well for the report to say that urgent, critical and emergency care could be more effectively delivered at just 4 hospitals (The Princess Royal at Farnborough, The Queen Elizabeth at Woolwich, Kings College and St Thomas’s) but a glance at the map in the consultation booklet shows that those living furthest away from such a facility will be those of us in …. Yes, the Beckenham/Penge corridor.
At present, blue light ambulances head straight for Lewisham as a matter of choice. The PRU at Farnborough is not an option – too far and too difficult a journey, we don’t really know where Woolwich is, yet alone how to get there, King’s is also a longer and more difficult journey and St Thomas’s, even more so. In answer to questions over whether these Hospitals have the capacity to take on the extra work load from Lewisham, we were told that capacity would be increased. But can it really be? Putting aside the rights and wrongs of the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, it seems that those of us in this area could be the most disadvantaged of all by the proposals.
That is my summary of the meeting. However, the unspoken issue running through the meeting was that if we had better funding for the NHS, we could of course afford to maintain first class full hospital care at Lewisham without any need for the changes that affect us most.
Responding to the Consultation It is vital to respond to the consultation. Do we think the downgrading of Lewisham leaves us suitable covered for emergency and urgent care? What facilities do we want at Beckenham Beacon?
Matthew Kershaw will also be attending a meeting of the Bromley Council Care Scrutiny Committee on December 3rd, 7.00 pm at the Bromley Civic Centre, though there is unlikely to be public questions.
Here is how we have been told to respond:
- Visit our website: www.tsa.nhs.uk
- Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call us (freephone) 0800 9530110
- Follow us on Twitter @OfficeTSA
- Write to us: Office of the Trust Special Administrator, c/o South London Healthcare NHS Trust, Frognal Avenue, Sidcup, Kent DA14 6LT