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Lewisham Hospital To Have A&E Downgraded

Thursday 31st January 2013

The A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham hospital are being downgraded, as part of major cost-cutting measures.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt making the announcement in the House of Commons

It is to help deal with huge financial losses at a nearby South London Hospitals Trust (SLHT) which went into administration.

SLHT is the most financially challenged trust in the UK, losing more than 1 million a week and with a deficit of 153m. 

Its financial collapse has been widely blamed on a private finance deal.

This morning on LBC 97.3 Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg explained that the situation means there are no "easy choices".

"Look, the problem as you know, comes back actually to this appalling PFI contract which the previous government signed with one of the neighbouring hospitals which is now losing that trust, I think it's about 150 million in debt," the Deputy Prime Minister explained during his weekly Call Clegg programme.

"So the whole kind of health system in that part of London is in a sense, financially running on empty because of a failure to make sure that this PFI deal was good value for local taxpayers and patients. So they're going to have to do something." 

Jeremy Hunt today told the House of Commons he accepts a report into the future of health care in the area from the special administrator - NHS Medical Director, Professor Bruce Keogh - but with some amendments.

Mr Hunt has rejected proposals to shut A&E at Lewisham Hospital but they will be downgraded as part of a shake up of services in the area.

The maternity unit meanwhile will not lose all of its services but will be midwife-led - meaning there will not be any doctors on site.

"There is a strong case that the recommendations are likely to lead to improved care for the residents of south east London and that they are underpinned by clear clinical evidence. [Professor Bruce Keogh] believes that overall these proposals, as amended, could save up to 100 lives every year through higher clinical standards."

The Health Secretary says up to three quarters of those currently attending Lewisham A&E could attend the new service at the hospital.

The Department of Health says as a result of the changes, patients across South East London will only spend on average 2 more minutes in an ambulance to access specialist emergency services and on average 2-3 minutes in a private car or public transport to access consultant led maternity services.

The South London Healthcare trust (responsible for Queen Mary's Sidcup, Queen Elizabeth Woolwich and Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington) will be dissolved by October 2013.