by Rebecca Falcon Jun 13th, 2013
This week, thousands of 38 Degrees members chipped in to help local campaigners in Lewisham take Jeremy Hunt to court. In a massive show of solidarity, we dug deep and helped raise the £20,000 needed. Now the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign can legally challenge Hunt’s decision to slash a number of services at Lewisham Hospital in South London.
Local people, doctors and nurses in Lewisham were outraged when they heard Hunt wanted to sever their hospital services. Lewisham hospital is well-performing, but crazily it’s because it’s a successful hospital that it has been targeted. Hunt wants to move money-making services away from Lewisham to bail out hospitals making losses in the area next door.
Expert lawyers said he wasn’t allowed to do this and a judge agreed that there was a case to answer, and capped costs at £20,000. Local campaigners had raised £5,000 on their own towards this but desperately needed more funds. So together, 38 Degrees members raised enough to get them to £20,000. Now they are able to hire in a top legal team and make the most of their chance to challenge the closure.
If the campaigners in Lewisham win their court case, it would be a huge boost for battles to protect A&E services up and down the country. Shutting A&E departments can cost lives. Recent reports showed that when an A&E in Newark closed, there was a 37% jump in patient deaths. Yet across the country A&Es are being cut. If Lewisham’s A&E department is closed, 750,000 people will be left with just one casualty department between them.
This isn’t happening because of clinical need, but to meet unrealistic financial demands made by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Now, with the money that 38 Degrees members helped raise, we have a real chance of getting Jeremy Hunt’s closure plan overturned. This court case will ramp up the pressure on Jeremy Hunt and will make him think twice about overruling patients, doctors and local health chiefs.
The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign is an inspiring example of ordinary people working to protect the NHS. Many of them are 38 Degrees members. They are campaigning for the same thing as the rest of us – a decent NHS we can all rely on. The court case is scheduled to start in a couple of weeks – we’ll keep you updated with how it goes.
Hopefully a successful legal challenge to save Lewisham hospital will help protect other hospitals which are under threat. If your local hospital or NHS services is under threat and you are interested in launching a local campaign in your area (or have details of a campaign that already exists) please email the office team at [email protected]