On Lewisham Hospital, and doing my bit

I have been wondering lately if I have the power to change anything, anything at all in the big wide world, or whether I might not be better just battening down the hatches and giving my full attention to looking after those closest to me. I am forever reading stuff that makes me sad – and more often mad – for example I’ve written on LearnerMother about food banks, human trafficking and ethical clothing production – all issues that I want to have the power to change. I don’t have any power of course, so I do what little I can – I try and make ethical choices when I’m purchasing goods and services; I write about stuff so my readers get to hear about it, I sign petition after petition and I tweet/fb information about issues that I think are important.

Recently though, I have been wondering – is there really any point in this? Is my status update/blog entry/sponsored run/postcard to my AM/MP/MEP ACTUALLY going to change anything? When I open my email in the morning, I have found myself looking wearily at the messages requesting that I click onto a petition link, and thinking – will it matter? Will it REALLY matter if I don’t do this?

But then look what happened this week! The High Court ruled that Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to downgrade Lewisham Hospital is in fact illegal. Not just ill advised – a muppet without its eyes sewn in yet could see that  – but ILLEGAL.

Just in case you don’t know the back story, it goes something like this. Lewisham hospital is highly rated, safe, and performing well, and has recently had a much needed £22million refurb. The South London Healthcare Trust on the other hand (which does NOT include Lewisham) is suffering crippling debts from poorly structured PFI deals, and has had an administrator appointed.

The administrator knows that the only way for a hospital to make more cash is to see more patients. Clearly, there are some detection and therefore imprisonment ethical issues with poisoning the local water supply. Hmm, I hear you say, in that case, what is one to do when one requires more sick people to service one’s debt? OH YES! Close the A and E in the neighbouring Trust! Then all those poor sick folk will HAVE to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich, which just happens to be in South London Healthcare Trust – I say chaps, quids in all round! Of course some of them will probably die en route, being as it can take an hour or so to get there from Lewisham in rush hour, and a few more of them will probably die in QE’s A and E, since it will have to service three quarters of a million people. So a few less folk for ATOS to profit from deal with, but they’ll take one for the team I’m sure, so all in all, problem solved! QE Woolwich will be full to bursting! HooBloodyRah!

Sorry, went off on a bit of a rant there. But you get my drift – downgrading Lewisham isn’t about rationalising services, or restructuring a poorly performing hospital. Those things have to happen, and I understand that. This, THIS is about propping up a neighbouring trust and its bloody PFI, so the government does not have to dip into its reserves to solve the problem. And more importantly, it’s just completely crazy. One A and E for 750,000 people? Really? REALLY? How long will that last? Oh, until the Tories (please all the gods in the world ever) have lost the next election and then someone else’ll be blamed. Great.

Ok. Deep breath. Stop the ranting. Back to the point.

The point is that I became aware of this because Lewisham used to be my local hospital. (Actually, Greenwich used to be my local hospital, but then it closed. Services moved to QE Woolwich, funnily enough). Anyway. Lewisham is also my sister’s local hospital. They delivered my nephew and niece safely, they looked after my niece when she was very very poorly, and they’ve also looked after my youngest when he was a baby and became scarily and suddenly ill whilst we were staying with my sister. So when I heard that they were looking to downgrade it, and the completely outrageous reasoning behind the decision, I tried to become as involved as I could.

That wasn’t very involved, in the grand scheme of things.  I facebooked, tweeted, signed petitions, wrote to Jeremy Hunt. I wanted to join my sister and her kids on the demonstrations but dragging three kids on a return journey from Cardiff to Lewisham for one day was not practical or financially possible. So I did what I could, from here. And all the time I was doing it, I had a devil on my shoulder, whispering to me ‘There’s no point. They’ll win, they always do. Now stop imagining you can change anything and get back to looking after your kids’.

But guess what? ‘They’ didn’t win. We did. This went all the way to the High Courts of Justice, who decided that what Mr Hunt and the South London Healthcare Trust wanted to do was illegal. So they can’t do it. I know, I know, that this is not the end of the story, that there is already talk of changing the law to make this sort of pillaging legal, that there will be appeals. I know that this is only one hospital that I happen to know about because of my personal connection to it, and that there will be others in the firing line. And I also know that this does not solve the problems of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. So it’s not all good news.

I also know that taken alone, my actions would not have made a jot of difference.  And yet, taken as one of thousands, tens of thousands, they did. If I made one, ONE person aware of this, and they made someone else aware, and the chain went on, well who knows where the tipping point is. It doesn’t even matter where it is – the point is that it IS there, and you, and me, and every person who has signed something or sponsored someone or demonstrated somewhere are a tiny but crucial part of making it happen, of making the scales slowly but surely tip.

The lesson I’ve learnt this week about doing my bit, is that my bit, though it is tiny, microscopic even, counts. As does your bit. So – please don’t do what I’ve been in danger of doing. Please don’t ignore the causes that are important to you, please, please fight for what you believe in*. Because it’s only by doing that that we can all of us hope to stop the madness and the greed, and make a fairer world.

Thank you for reading.


*unless you are a Tory. In which case we need to have serious words about what you believe in.



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4 thoughts on “On Lewisham Hospital, and doing my bit

  1. A little victory for us in hertfordshire this week aswell – the government has finally bought back the surgicentre from carillon (a building firm…seriously) And handed it back to the local nhs trust. Only after at least 3 deaths, many more other botched ops and much campaigning though!!

  2. Uh oh. I declare my card… We are politically opposed. But I am glad Lewisham has been given reprieve, and I do not agree with much this Tory govt has done…. So on this item we agree.

    1. Sorry. That was a tongue in cheek comment, reflecting how negative I feel about the Tories, though more and more I am feeling ambivalent about all mainstream political parties. Just can’t shake the feeling that those privileged few at the top of any party are in it for themselves and only themselves.
      Looking forward to more posts from doubtfulmum soon! 🙂

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