Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lewisham Hospital Demonstration No.2

Today's march against the threatened closure of Accident & Emergency and Maternity services at Lewisham Hospital was huge, with estimates ranging from 15,000 to 25,000. Certainly it seemed bigger than the similar demonstration last November where the crowd was estimated at 10 to 15,000 - and that was the largest protest in Lewisham for at least 30 years. The demonstration has achieved national coverage for the campaign to save Lewisham as a comprehenisve local acute hospital (see report in Guardian, BBC etc).

Usually when a march assembles from 12 you don't expect it to leave until about 1, but this demo headed off promptly at 12.15 - presumably because the space where people were meeting up was already getting overcrowded.

It headed off from the roundabout by the station, down through the town centre, past the hospital before turning left up the hill to Mountsfield Park. Everything I enthused about on the November demonstration - the energy, diversity and creativity - was still there, only more so if anything.

Lewisham Hospital, like many similar local health services, is associated with some of the most significant moments in people's lives: birth, suffering, recovery, death. I have lain on the floor of that A & E crying in pain, slept in the children's ward next to my sick son, visited my partner after surgery. Most people locally have similar stories. That gives the campaign a deep reservoir of emotion to draw on, as well all the rational reasons why decimating a perfectly good local hospital makes no sense whatsoever.

'I'm a triplet born at Lewisham Maternity'
- the cutest placards of the day, outside Lewisham fire station
But strong feelings and arguments don't get huge crowds on the streets on their own - that takes organisation. In the lead-up to the march there was an impressive amount of community-organising, with banners and posters everywhere, leafleting, and groups of people in their streets and workplaces deciding to come out together on the demonstration.

'NHS Health Visitors love all of Lewisham Hospital'

David Cameron - 'hands off our hospital'

'Save our Children's Ward - Save Lewisham Hospital'

'Save Lewisham Hospital - Support from Brockley'
(the old Brockley/Broccoli joke never grows old)

Outside Lewisham Hospital

One innovation was the 'Save Lewisham Hospital'  placards with a blank white space at the top to write in the names of supporters of the campaign. The ones above were from Sydenham Green Group Practice and Lewisham Children's Outpatients, there were others from many local groups and even shops (I saw Jay's Budgens and Arlo & Moe's cafe in Brockley). This was the Big Society on the march!

London Sivan Kovil - Lewisham Hindu Temple

The Millwall FC Lion - the Millwall double decker bus was in the park at the end

'If it ain't broke'
Parkinsons patients and advocates say 'Don't cut my lifeline'
Mountsfield Park at the end was very muddy so many people didn't stick around too long. There was music in the bandstand and some games, including the Jeremy Hunt Coconut Shy ('knock the rotten block off!).

... and Splatt the Rat! (no prizes for guessing identity of the rat).

There was also a giant petition scroll - this section was fairly typical: '4 nephews and nieces, 1 saved sister, 1 little brother, leave our hospital alone, hands off our hospital Hunt'

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt now has less than a week to make his decision on the future of Lewisham Hospital. If he decides not to proceed with the closures, it will be a great victory. If he decides to plough on, the campaign will certainly not be over.

(See also photos and reports at Andy Worthington, Alternative SE4, Crosswhatfields; more Transpontine Lewisham Hospital coverage).


Monkeyboy said...

And channel 4 news

Their sports reporter @nzerem is a local boy and was on the march with his family

Anonymous said...

a great great day, hats off to the organisers of this event - and believe me, it took some organising!

Anonymous said...

Bravo to all that went out to organised and marched!!!!

Tamsin said...

Just to clarify a bit - the photo captioned "outside Lewisham Hospital" is in fact outside the Saville Centre (no connection, before anyone asks) and the children are those who attend the IQRA Somali Saturday and Sunday school held there.

This is an issue on which all sectors of the local community feel strongly.

Tamsin said...

A question I've just been asked by a lady who told me that it is the former workhouse and of historic interest... Have the Lewisham Hospital Buildings that front the High Street been listed locally or nationally?