Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lewisham Hospital Day of Action

Tomorrow (Thursday 13th December) is the last day to officially respond to the consultation on changes to health services in South East London, most notably the threat to close emergency care at Lewisham Hospital with a longer term threat to maternity and other services at the hospital. The online consultation form is here - you are not asked for your name or other personal details by the way. Save Lewisham Hospital have a guide to completing it  - if you have time try and put in further arguments in the comments boxes.

There is also a Save Lewisham Hospital Day of Action tomorrow. People are asked to stage a lunchtime protest at 12 noon outside their own workplace, and then to join a torchit vigil outside Lewisham Hospital from 4 pm to 7 pm.

One of the many things that concerns me about the plans is the impact on journey times to hospital. Clearly for anybody for whom Lewisham is the nearest hospital, closing emergency care there will mean that it will take them longer to access A&E. For people being transported by ambulance in good traffic conditions, the difference may not always be substantial - although it will clearly have more impact on people living further away from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, and for some the resulting delay in access to clinical facilities could be fatal.

It is very unclear whether real traffic conditions have been taken into account in the report's estimate that  'the average increase in blue light ambulance journey time for the population of Lewisham to reach the specialist team would be just over seven minutes'. As stated here before, AA Route Planner estimates the normal car journey time from Lewisham Hospital to QEH as 22 minutes assuming normal traffic. You would also need to take into account the  frequency of traffic congestion on Blackheath and the A2 which most ambulances to Woolwich from Lewisham would have to cross on their journey.

Lewisham Local Implementation Plan 2011, which sets out the borough's transport strategy, points out that traffic speeds in Lewisham are slower than in neighbouring boroughs, and that traffic delays are worse - in other words an ambulance travelling through Lewisham is more likely to get stuck in traffic than elsewhere:

The report ignores another important element of journey times. Support and visits from friends and family is important for patient well-being and recovery, but it will be difficult for many Lewisham residents to make it to Woolwich regularly. As with many aspects of this plan, poorer residents will be worse affected as they are more likely to have to use public transport -  it should be noted that a third of households in Lewisham do not have access to a car (compared with only 13% in Bromley) . Transport for London's journey planner suggests that the quickest public transport journey from Lewisham Hospital to Queen Elizabeth Hospital takes around 50 minutes during the day, including a 15 minute walk at the Woolwich end from the 54 bus stop. Again traffic jams could often cause this journey to take longer.

All of this might sound like juggling with statistics, but think about an example. A child in central Lewisham has a traffic accident, and is taken to hospital in an ambulance, where they need to stay in intensive care for a week. It would be terrible and difficult now for their family if the child was in Lewisham Hospital, but imagine the extra distress if the family (perhaps a lone parent with other children) had to spend at least two hours a day travelling back and forth by public transport to hospital in Woolwich. Daily distress like this will become the norm for many people in Lewisham if the plan goes ahead.

No comments: