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Defending our NHS

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31 March 2015
Future of Lewisham Hospital The General Election has now officially started and I am no longer a Member of Parliament, I am Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham East.

A few weeks ago I launched my “5 point plan for Lewisham East” and my first pledge is that I will always defend our local health service. When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats tried to axe services at Lewisham Hospital, we all knew it was wrong. As a community, we opposed it every step of the way – and won. 

Unfortunately, Jeremy Hunt’s first act as Secretary of State for Health following the judge’s ruling was to try and change the law to allow him to do elsewhere what the courts told him he couldn’t do in Lewisham – decimate services at successful hospitals in order to solve problems in neighbouring trusts. This rule change is now on the statute books thanks to Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs voting it through.

Whilst Lewisham Hospital may be safe for now, the Coalition’s approach to our national health service over the past five years means we must remain vigilant. It is with this in mind that I raised questions about Monitor’s investigation into the Princess Royal University Hospital in Parliament last week, and put on record my concerns about the challenges facing hospitals in south east London. The debate was secured by my colleague Jim Dowd, the then MP for Lewisham West and Penge.

For those who don’t know, the PRUH in Bromley was a part of the ill-fated South London Healthcare Trust which went into special measures and was subject to the Trust Special Administrator (TSA) regime. As well as suggesting that Lewisham Hospital’s maternity service and A&E be closed, the TSA concluded that the SLHT be broken up. The PRUH was eventually brought under the remit of the Kings Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, but is still experiencing financial difficulties 18 months on.

Monitor launched a formal investigation into problems at the PRUH but, at the time of the announcement, it wasn’t clear to me what exactly this process was limited to, the time scales involved, or what changes could come about as a result of the investigation. Given the government’s powers to force service closures at any hospital in the country as long as they deem the neighbouring trust to be failing, I know there has been some anxiety amongst local people that the proposals to take services away from Lewisham will rear their head again.

In her answer, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health explained that Monitor is undertaking its investigation to find a lasting solution to long-standing problems at the PRUH, namely that patients are waiting too long for A&E treatments and routine operations and the trust is predicting a deficit of more than £40m this financial year.  She went on to state that Monitor does not have the power to direct non-foundation trusts, nor does it have the power to direct neighbouring foundation trusts unless they themselves are in breach of their licence.

It does seem that Lewisham Hospital remains safe for now but I will continue to follow this matter closely and will always defend our local health services. A vote for Labour on 7th May is a vote for a party which protect and strengthen our NHS so it is fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We will:

- Recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs (paid for by a tax on properties worth £2m or more)
- Guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours – and on the same day for those who need it
- Repeal the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act
- Bring together physical health, mental health and social care into a single service to meet all of a person’s care needs
- Give mental health the priority it deserves with a new right to access talking therapies enshrined in the NHS constitution
- Guarantee that patients will wait no longer than one week for vital cancer tests and results by 2020

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