Dr Hazel Waters Responds To TSA Matthew Kershaw

Dear Mr Kershaw,

I am writing in strong opposition to the proposal that Lewisham A&E should be closed and its services downgraded. What kind of financial logic, at a time when there are reserves within the NHS, should posit the closure of a state-of-the-art facility that has only been open 6 months.

My husband has advanced Parkinson's Disease with Lewy Body dementia. Falls are a frequent occurrence for such patients, and his difficulty with communicating how badly or not he is hurt means that, as a precaution, he often needs to be taken to A&E to be properly assessed. Lewisham A&E is efficient but never less than extremely busy, and there is usually a wait of several hours - up to 4 on occasion - for all necessary assessments to be carried out. Due to his poor mobility and inability to physically get into a car or taxi, we then have to wait for patient transport, supplied by G4S (with that company's usual efficiency), which adds one and a half to two hours to the whole experience. Yet we live only about 30 minutes from Lewisham hospital by public transport.
Why, you may wonder, am I telling you all this tedious detail?
Because if Lewisham (which has been financially stable) closes in order to save a problem of mismanagement caused elsewhere, such logistical problems as I have indicated above (the sort of problems that poor people and sick people and elderly people face daily) will be multiplied tenfold. Do you seriously imagine that patients from this large and fairly poor area will trek off to Woolwich when they need such services? Have you ever tried getting around South London by road from Lewisham to Woolwich? No, they will go to Kings, already seriously overstretched, or Guy's (ditto).
It is insulting to tell us that this is in our 'best interests' - no, it is in the best interests of an ideological intention to turn the NHS into a cash cow for private companies. Unless you can honestly tell me that this reduction in services will result in shorter waiting times, no waiting for patient transport, and police outriders to speed ambulances through to Woolwich, I fail to see the advantages to patients. Or have you a plan for Zil lanes up your sleeve?

As a hospital, Lewisham is efficient, well run, has received necessary and welcome investment, is part of a strategic plan in which it is linked to KCH through consultants and specialist services, including neurology. It is extremely accessible by public transport, including nightbuses, in an area that feels 'safe'. (And, yes, I have also had to travel to A&E on the nightbus, to take my elderly mother (dementia, wandering) home after being taken there for safety by the police.)

If the debt can be written off on the grounds that services elsewhere will be drastically cut, then why can it not be written off anyway and the massive investment already made in Lewisham protected?
Dr Hazel Waters

Committee Member, Lewisham Parkinson's UK Branch