Jan 31 2013
The Government has been accused of "breaking up" the NHS after announcing a downgrading of accident and emergency and maternity services to deal with huge financial losses at a trust which went into administration.
The changes at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London are part of a wider shake-up of services in the capital after the financial collapse of neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT).
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs he had rejected proposals to close the A&E unit at Lewisham, where thousands of people marched at the weekend as part of a campaign to keep it open.
Lewisham Hospital has been hit by the knock-on effects of the financial difficulties of SLHT, which Mr Hunt said would now be dissolved after losses of more than £1 million a week.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the Government's "mismanagement" of the NHS had got worse, adding that the decision to downgrade services set a "dangerous precedent" for other hospitals.
Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said: "This Government is now presiding over the downfall, break-up and privatisation of the NHS."
The GMB called on MPs to reject the decision.
Geoff Martin, chairman of campaign group London Health Emergency, said: "The Government have today endorsed brutal cuts to front line hospital services in south London which will have a knock-on effect for hundreds of thousands of people seeking emergency and maternity care.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network said: "South London Healthcare was a crucial test for the NHS and the Secretary of State. We must have a robust and effective way of dealing with hospitals that are no longer clinically or financially sustainable.
"Jeremy Hunt's decision is the right one, not least because it is based on the clinical evidence. It is a fair and balanced assessment of what is needed for the people of south London, and shows that Mr Hunt is prepared to make difficult decisions in support of a process that safeguards patients' interests."