Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lewisham vs Boris (and poor journalism)


After complaining to the managing director's office at the Evening Standard, and threatening to issue a PCC complaint, the Standard has amended the article.

The previous article read:

"One protester, who introduced himself only as “a local GP” shouted “coward” at Mr Johnson".

The article now reads:

"One protester, who introduced himself as a local GP, told Mr Johnson he was a "coward".

A very small change but a significant one as the article no longer makes the campaigner in question sound like an unruly yob who yelled out from the crowd. It would be nice if the article had explained WHY Dr Fisher called Boris a coward but I suppose it is the Evening Standard.

The email below is what I received in response to my complaint:

Dear Ms Hawthorne

Thank you for your emails. I’m sorry for the slight delay in responding to you.

I take on board what you say about the ‘coward’ comment coming as part of a longer remark, although I must say that I do not think it is misleading to have focussed on that word alone. Nonetheless, I have arranged for the web version of our article to be slightly amended so that there is no possibility of readers thinking that the term was shouted out as a single exclamation.

As to the doctor identifying himself as a local GP, I note that the recording of the event shows he also gave his name. I will arrange a further change to deal with that point in due course. I won’t include his name unless he contacts us himself to request that we do.

Thank you for raising this matter with us directly. Of course, if you have further queries please let me know.

Thanks for all who tweeted about this! A small victory but a victory nonetheless



QUICK ASIDE: As it's likely to be people interested in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign reading this, just want to take a quick opportunity to flag up that the next big campaign event - Born in Lewisham - is taking place on Saturday 16 March at 2pm - more info here:

Right, on to Boris!

As most people will be aware, Boris was in Lewisham (specifically, Catford) on Thursday 7 March for the People's Question Time event, a bi-annual event which "gives Londoners the chance to question the Mayor and London Assembly about their plans, priorities and policies for London". It's worth pointing out that Boris is obliged to attend these events - he does not do so by choice.

I won't try and summarise the event as I won't do any better than East London Lines fantastic article:

Needless to say, the people of Lewisham did the borough proud. Yes, there was boo-ing and heckling as Boris tried to avoid answering certain questions, and, in the case of Lewisham Hospital, continued to quote claims that have been widely debunked - the main one being that the proposed downgrades will save 100 lives a year.

But the majority of the meeting was filled with valid, intelligent, well-researched questions from Lewisham residents keen to remind Boris that his duty as Mayor is to represent London - and that, in terms of Lewisham, he is failing miserably.

A selection of the headlines following the event paint a picture of the audience as a baying mob, who sat and did nothing but heckle Boris Johnson for two hours. For example,

London mayor heckled by Lewisham hospital campaigners

New Statesman: 
Boris Johnson heckled for almost two hours in Lewisham

The news report I have taken most issue with, though, is that of the Evening Standard. Their article focuses on the moment that Dr Brian Fisher, a local GP, described Boris as a "coward".

What Dr Fisher said, in full, is this: 

"Good evening, I’m Brian Fisher, I’m a local GP. The population of Lewisham will be rising and the housing stock will not be taking that into account [the question was asked in the section of the meeting focused on Housing]. The inequalities of health that have been released because of the rent changes and the benefit changes that other people have spoken about are going to be astonishing. I can see it everyday in surgery. And the Equalities Assessment that was done as part of the ridiculous consultation on the closure of Lewisham Hospital showed complicitly that health inequalities are going to increase. You do have a direct responsibility for health inequalities. You are ignoring that responsibility. You are a coward in that relation."

What the Evening Standard article reported, was this:

"One protester, who introduced himself only as “a local GP” shouted “coward” at Mr Johnson".

Putting aside the fact that Dr Fisher did, quite clearly, introduce himself at the beginning of his statement, the description of him shouting the word "coward" at Boris Johnson - while it may fit in with the media depiction of the event of a meeting filled with heckles, jeers and hurled insults - simply isn't true

I called the Evening Standard news desk yesterday (Friday 8 March) to ask them to correct this (at the time, I didn't have the full quote but knew that Dr Fisher had made a full intelligent statement and not simply shouted "coward"). 

I was told that the article was fine as it was, and any debate over him shouting the word "coward" was just a matter of opinion about volume. I tried to explain that it wasn't about volume but taking a word out of context, and painting a false picture of events, and was promptly hung up on.

It's worth pointing out here that Dr Fisher didn't so much as raise his voice as can be clearly heard in a recording of the evening made by Clare Griffiths (@clogsilk): Dr Fisher's statement is at the 1hr 8min 50 secs mark.
To many, this may be a small point not worth fussing over. The media is, of course, well known for taking things out of context etc - it's just a fact of life. 

I agree. But I don't think for one second we should stand for it. 

The PCC code states on the topic of accuracy:

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

We have to hold newspapers and other media outlets to these standards. Back in November, when the Standard mis-reported that the first Lewisham Hospital had a low-turnout due to rain (actual turnout: 10,000-15,000), they were pulled up on this and forced to re-write the story.

I have written a letter of complaint to the editor Sarah Sands at, and ask as many people as possible to do the same - it may not make a difference in this occasion, but will make the Standard think twice before printing inaccurate information about the Lewisham Hospital campaign again in the future.


Interestingly, none of the media outlets (as far as I'm aware) reported on what followed Dr Fisher's 'coward' comment - the moment where Boris's 'lovable buffoon' mask momentarily slipped.

Twitter user @darryl1974 posted a clip of the wonderful moment online here: - the audience's reaction is true Lewisham.


Worth flagging up ITV's news report on the protest, which is one of the most balanced I've seen from national media (though I've been told that the BBC radio coverage has been good): This report actually shows some of the questions that were asked (not just the boo-ing etc) and also gave a campaigner (Jos) the opportunity to refute the ridiculous 100 lives claim.

The fight for Lewisham Hospital continues and People's Question Time shows that the campaign has no intention of backing off. The campaign has been a positive one from the beginning and any attempts by the press to paint it as negative and aggressive must be challenged.


In response to an FoI request I filed, the Department of Health said this about the 100 lives claim: 

"The figure on reduced mortality used in the TSA’s report was derived from work undertaken by London Health Programmes, considering the difference in mortality rates for patients admitted as an emergency on a weekday and those admitted at the weekend. This work demonstrated that patients admitted to hospital as an emergency at the weekend in London had a significantly increased risk of dying compared to those admitted on a weekday. This is also seen nationally. Independently verified analysis showed that a minimum of 500 lives in London could be saved every year if the mortality rate for patients admitted at the weekend was the same as for those admitted on a weekday. For southeast London, this equates to around 100 lives."

I cannot understand what weekend/weekday mortality rates has to do with the Lewisham downgrade so if anyone can explain this to me, I'd be ever so grateful! My email is

Keep fighting! :-)

Shannon x

Sunday, 17 February 2013

I love Lewisham Hospital - but that's not why it should be saved

The below is a comment I posted on this Guardian article, about the widespread misconceptions on WHY people are fighting for their local hospitals:


As a supporter of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and the broader fight to Save our NHS, I really have found the patronising rhetoric that MPs have used when talking about local peoples' reactions to NHS reconfigurations to be extremely offensive.

I was born in Lewisham Hospital. But I don't for one minute think that, in and of itself, is relevant to any debate on its survival.

What is relevant, in my opinion, is that my birth, my mum's second, became very complicated quite out of the blue and it was due to the expertise of the maternity staff, way back in 1986, that we're both alive. If the proposals go through and another mum goes through a similar experience to what my mum went through all those years ago, she will have to be shipped off to a hospital six miles away to get emergency treatment. That's not sentimental; that's just a fact.

I agree that it's not helpful when local MPs use emotive language about how "upset and angry" their residents are about service downgrades, as if that's going to make any difference. It just feeds into the (wrongful) belief that protests against changes are mere outpourings of emotion, rooted in sentimentality.

Speaking on Lewisham Hospital in Parliament a couple of weeks back, Lord Patten said: "On every occasion, however understandable, attachments to institutions and to buildings that have been there for a long time are always trumped by patient outcomes and patient care"

I completely agree. Problem is, the Lewisham A&E decision was nothing to do with patient care and all to do with money. Lewisham campaigners aren't campaigning simply because they have an "attachment" to Lewisham Hospital. They are campaigning because the decision to downgrade it has been rushed, has not been backed up by "clear clinical evidence" (one of the Tories' four tests) and is opposed by every single local GP and clinician on the grounds that it puts lives at risk.

Bruce Keogh said that a smaller A&E at Lewisham Hospital would still see up to 75% of patients. He also (apparently) told Jeremy Hunt that the overall South London Healthcare Trust changes could save up to 100 lives a year. Lewisham consultants wrote a formal letter to him asking him to back up his claims. His reply contained not a single figure - instead, he said that "It's not an exact science".

That is why we are fighting for Lewisham. Not because the hospital is "the heart of the community", or because we don't understand the need for change or tough choices, but because the decision to downgrade its services has been made for the wrong reasons and if we allow the plans to proceed, people will pay with their lives.

[end rant]

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Why Jeremy Hunt made a terrible decision on Lewisham Hospital

On 31 January 2013, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he had approved the downgrade of Lewisham A&E to a "smaller" A&E and the downgrade of the existing maternity unit to a mid-wife led unit. Throughout his announcement, he continually re-asserted that his decision was made on the advice of NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

Many papers and website have inaccurately described this decision as a "partial victory" or a "compromise". This isn't true. The "smaller" A&E is essentially the urgent care centre originally proposed by Matthew Kershaw dressed up in different language. It still would not be able to see serious cases such as meningitis and pneumonia. The mid-wife led unit was the TSA's original recommendation and has been strongly opposed by campaigners from the very beginning. It would mean that, should a pregnant mother go into a seemingly "low-risk" labour (if there is such a thing??) which suddenly runs into serious complications, they will have to be transferred to another hospital to receive the necessary emergency care, rather than being treated at Lewisham as is currently the case.

Despite the Conservative Party's emphasis on "localism" and Jeremy Hunt's own assertion that NHS decisions should be made in consultation with local people and local clinicians, it seems that the entire basis of the health secretary's final decision was "Sir Bruce said...". This is despite the fact that 90% of respondents to the TSA's draft report opposed the Lewisham Hospital proposals, as did all local clinicians.


A quick look at the statistic and claims made by Sir Bruce and then regurgitated by Hunt reveals some very dodgy looking stats. Below are the main ones:

1) the changes to maternity and emergency care would result in the average blue light transfer times in south-east London increasing by one minute (by supersonic jet perhaps?)

2) accessing consultant-led maternity services will involve an increase in journey times on average of two to three minutes by private or public transport (an extra 2-3 minutes to travel an extra 6 miles? Really??)

3) the new free-standing, midwife-led unit at Lewisham Hospital will be able to deal with a minimum of 10% of existing activity and up to 60% of current activity (no clinical evidence provided)

4) the new smaller Lewisham Hospital A&E can continue to see up to 75% of those currently attending Lewisham A&E (no clinical evidence provided)

5) the overall proposals could save up to 100 lives per year through higher medical standards (no clinical evidence provided)


There are a couple of interesting points in Sir Bruce's letter to Hunt (which can be found here: that make it clear that these proposals cannot go through:

a) "The TSA [a new one will be appointed now Kershaw has landed a cushy job as a hospital CEO] and local clinicians must be able to articulate clear and understandable plans for the public to reassure them that acutely ill patients, particularly from the Lewisham area, will be able to access high quality services in an emergency."

- Well, given that local clinicians are unanimous in their opposition to the proposals, this is pretty much an impossibility, no?

b) "I should make it clear that patients who have a potential to deteriorate ... would not be appropriate for this facility [the smaller A&E]."

- Erm, someone might need to remind Sir Bruce that ALL patients have the potential to deteriorate. As such, surely he's actually confirming what we all know to be true: a smaller A&E simply cannot work in practice.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Dear Mr Hunt...

Sooooo the consultation was an utter shambles! In addition to the protest on Saturday 26 Jan, everyone supporting the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign can write to Jeremy Hunt and share their views (probably best to keep it polite..!) Details can be found at: 

My letter is below (yes, I got caught up in a rant)


23 Jan 2013
Dear Mr Hunt,
I am writing to you with regard to the Trust Special Administrator report on the proposed reconfiguration of the South London Healthcare Trust, in particular reference to the proposals pertaining to Lewisham Hospital.
I’m well aware that most likely this letter will not be read by you but by a member of your staff (if that), and that, in response, I will most likely receive a standard statement stating merely that you’re considering the proposals. 
I am also aware that you will have heard many arguments – that the TSA far overstepped his remit, that Lewisham is a successful solvent hospital, and that the proposed changes will have potentially fatal consequences on the local population – before. As such, I would like to look at this issue from a different perspective and will do so briefly in the hope that, should this letter actually reach you, you will endeavour to read it in its entirety.
You have stressed on numerous occasions the important of the four tests. In the House of Commons on 8 January 2013, you said:
  • “[W]ere there to be any changes, we would need to be satisfied that they would have strong, local, clinical support”
  • “I will not accept any of the changes that the special administrator proposes unless I am satisfied that all four tests have been met.”
  • [We introduced the four tests as] “an additional safeguard to make sure that reconfigurations were not done without local clinical support”.

As I’m sure you are by now more than aware, the TSA’s report fails ALL four tests. But what is important is that you made these statements on the record, publicly and definitively. You will not be able to backtrack on these promises unnoticed.
We are one of the most deprived boroughs in London and yet the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign have secured consistent national coverage on our campaign ever since 10,000-15,000 people attended the demonstration on 24 November 2012, including:
Daily Mail
Daily Mirror
Regardless of political leaning, all coverage has been critical of the proposals. Look at the comments from Guardian readers, and then those from Daily Mail readers – they are equally opposed to the changes and equally critical of a Conservative government that would allow them to proceed.
The proposals were also a key topic of debate on a recent episode of Question Time broadcast on 10 January 2013 which was watched by three million people. The panel was unanimous in its opposition to the proposals, and NHS was a top UK trend on Twitter immediately following the show.
If you are even considering accepting the Lewisham Hospital proposals, you are heading for a PR nightmare. The country is watching your decision very closely at a time where confidence in the Conservative Party to stick to campaign promises is at an all-time low. This is the highest profile case of its kind in recent history. Should you approve these proposals, you are saying to every single voter in the country that, regardless of the four tests and your promises that NHS reconfigurations must have local support, if you deem it necessary, you can and will close down any NHS services you like. Is this the message you want to give to the electorate?
There seems to be a view that Lewisham residents are opposed to the proposals because they (a) are emotionally attached to their local hospital and don’t want to services removed; (b) don’t understand the urgent need for change given the SLHT’s dire financial situation; (c) aren’t willing to offer any alternatives. All the aforementioned points are completely inaccurate.
We are well aware that the SLHT’s financial situation is completely unsustainable and that something has to be done. We are also aware that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made to solve such large-scale problems. Local GP commissioners have been very clear that they understand the need for change and are more than willing to work with QEH to come up with a sustainable, workable solution that does not put the lives of patients at risk unnecessarily. We the public are also very clear that we oppose the proposals, not for reasons of sentimentality, but because they are dangerous proposals based on incomplete, inaccurate and flawed data. You said on the 8th January that the four tests were introduced because you “wanted to avoid what had happened so often, including in my own constituency—an alliance of Health Ministers and NHS managers riding roughshod over what local people wanted”. Should you approve these proposals, this is exactly what will be happening.
1) The most evident failure is that of the first test: support from GP commissioners. From your emphasis on local support during your speech on 8 January, I take this to mean “support from LOCAL GP commissioners”. As has been made very clear to you, local GP commissioners are unanimous in their opposition to the proposed closures at Lewisham A&E.
2) The proposals also fail the second test, strengthened public and patient engagement. The public were given little time to respond to the consultation. The proposals with regard to Lewisham Hospital were obfuscatory to the extreme – many (including myself) did not understand what was actually being proposed at first. A crucial piece of data on which the public consultation was based was also flawed - a fact only acknowledged after the public consultation period was closed. The final report states:
"Analysis included in the TSA’s draft report suggested around 77% of University Hospital Lewisham’s current A&E activity would remain at the hospital under this scenario. However, a number of responses to the consultation suggested that this estimate was too high. Therefore, further analysis was undertaken and, based on practice elsewhere in London, a revised figure of 50% has been used for the modelling that underpins the TSA’s recommendation."
There is a significant difference between 50% and 77%, I’m sure you will agree. Most local clinicians believe that the actual figure is yet lower than 50%, at around 30%. And if this figure was so substantially wrong, how can we trust any of the data in the report?
3) The recommendations are underpinned by a clear clinical evidence base
They are not in the slightest, as has already been outlined to you by local clinicians. More views can be found here:
4. The changes give patients a choice of good quality providers.
These changes do exactly the opposite. QEH is already severely over-stretched and simply cannot cope with the extra patients. Travel times for Lewisham residents to reach QEH have also been severely underestimated. The TSA has also significantly underestimated the flow of patients to Kings College Hospital in Camberwell, should the proposals be approved, as has been stated by Harriet Harman in her letter to you ( From a personal point of view, I can tell you that as a Sydenham resident, I would not consider travelling to QEH for emergency care.
I hope the issues outlined above, and the sheer size and high profile nature of the opposition to these proposals, in addition to the many other letters you will be receiving and meetings you will be having, are enough to convince that these proposals must be rejected.
I look forward to a prompt response, and eagerly await your decision on 1 February.
Kind regards,
Shannon Hawthorne, Lewisham resident.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


This aim of this page is to encourage all south east London residents to respond to the consultation on the proposed changes to Lewisham Hospital.

This is an unofficial blog site set up by a Lewisham resident strongly opposed to the proposals. The official Save Lewisham Hospital campaign website ( has lots more detailed information on the report, the consultation and how you can get involved.

Below is a very brief overview of the consultation and the changes that are being proposed - if you want to help save Lewisham Hospital but aren't 100% on what the issues are, please take 5 minutes to read  the below...


In order to help Save Lewisham Hospital, it's vital that everyone RESPONDS TO THE CONSULTATION! Even if you've come to all the meetings, marched at the protest and signed the petition, your voice won't truly be heard unless you respond to the consultation.

The official petition has been signed by over 22,000 people but this only counts as ONE response!

The online response form consists of several questions on the recommendations in the report with multiple choice answers (strongly agree, agree etc). There is the option to add comments but this is not compulsory. If you want to respond, but don't have time to wade through the jargon of the report, please read Save Lewisham Hospital's excellent guide to responding to the consultation. If you use this, it should take no more than 5 minutes.
  • Click here to read the draft report, which includes the proposals about Lewisham Hospital.
  • Click here to respond to the consultation via the online response form.


The below is intended to be a very brief summary of the issues surrounding the closure of Lewisham Hospital A&E and other services. It's not intended to be patronising, just simple and clear for anyone who's not clear on what the issues are and want to know the essentials. I'm not an expert in any way, shape or form, just someone keen to save Lewisham Hospital!!

What's happening at Lewisham Hospital?


It all boils down to the South London Healthcare Trust. This is a group of three hospitals: Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough and Queen Mary's in Sidcup. The Trust is in millions of pounds of debt. Lewisham Hospital is not part of the Trust and is not in debt.


A man called Matthew Kershaw has been given the responsibility of solving the problem of the Trust's debt. His job title is Trust Special Administrator (TSA). He has written a report detailing how he proposes to clear this debt which is currently in draft form (the draft report). The public has until 13 December to give their views on the proposals in this report.


The report is long, vaguely worded and deliberately difficult to read. In terms of the proposals relating to Lewisham Hospital, the key points that the report is proposing are:

- To close Lewisham A&E and replace it with an 'urgent care centre'. This would only treat minor ailments such as: 
  • X-rays and other tests
  • Minor fractures 
  • Minor ear, nose, throat and eye infections
This centre would only treat injuries and illness that do not require a stay in hospital. Patients with more serious ailments would no longer be able to be treated at Lewisham Hospital.

- To close Lewisham's children's wards, intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency and complex surgery unit. The report also suggests the possible closure of Lewisham's maternity services, which sees over 4000 births a year.

- To sell off 60% of the hospital's buildings to developers. 


Once the consultation closes on the 13 December, Matthew Kershaw will put together a final report, which he will give to the secretary of state Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy Hunt will then make a final decision on the proposals by 1 February. His decision on this cannot be appealed.


The proposals in the report are based on incorrect figures and unsubstantiated assumptions. It is clear that Matthew Kershaw has not fully considered the healthcare implications of his proposals. There are so many things wrong with the proposals, it's hard to know where to begin, but below are some of the main objections that have been raised:

    - A&E closures
  • The closure of the A&E would mean that the 750,000 residents of the borough of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley will all have to share one A&E (Queen Elizabeth) which is already struggling with patient numbers. The populations of these boroughs is also growing. 
  • The report claims that the A&E is not closing; just becoming a urgent care centre. This is not true. What they are proposing is a closure.
  • The report does not address the extra people that would choose to go to King's College Hospital for A&E services. There has been no research done into how King's would cope with this. The TSA says this will be addressed at a later date (when the public no longer have a say).
  • The report states that 77% of people could still be treated at Lewisham's proposed urgent care centre. This is a highly disputed figure and one that even the people behind the report aren't fully sure about. This figure does not take into account that even if people could have been treated at the urgent care centre, they may still choose to travel to the nearest A&E (e.g. Kings), therefore still placing pressure on those services. And what about the other 23%??
  • The Lewisham Healthcare Trust provided this 77% figure. The Lewisham Healthcare Trust has stated that they do not support the report's proposal.

    - Travel times
  • The closure of key services at Lewisham Hospital will mean that residents - the sick, the elderly, the mentally ill - will have to travel much further to an unfamiliar area to access services they would have previously accessed at Lewisham.
  • A report by Deloitte, conducted on behalf of the TSA, bases its travel estimates on there being no traffic (seriously!). Travel access to Queen Elizabeth is particularly poor.

    - Medical experts say NO
  • The medical professionals of south east London are strongly opposed to these proposals. You can read their views on the Save Lewisham Hospital website.

There's SO much more that could be said, but this is meant to be a brief summary so I'll stop there. As stated, the Save Lewisham Hospital website has loads more information if you want to find out more.

We should be very clear: if these proposals go ahead, it will not be long until Lewisham Hospital closes altogether.

This is not a Lewisham problem. This is a problem for the whole of south east London. If you don't live in Lewisham, think about the last time you waited all night in A&E to be seen by a doctor. Now imagine how much worse that wait will be when your local hospital is having to deal extra patients that would have gone to Lewisham.

The consultation ends on 13 December. Please please please take 5 minutes out of your day and respond. The Save Lewisham Hospital guide means that it doesn't have to be an arduous process. This is the only opportunity we will have to have our say - make sure you use it!!!

Thank you!

Shannon (born and raised in Lewisham!)