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Lewisham Hospital march: Organisers claim 15,000 protesters braved the rain
ORGANISERS claim a phenomenal 15,000 protesters braved driving rain to march against the proposed closure of Lewisham A&E on Saturday.
Despite the cold, the demo saw people from every part of Lewisham’s diverse community turn out to rain anger down upon the Trust Special Administrator's planned cuts.
If pushed through, Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and maternity services could be axed and residents would have to travel to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich for the majority of emergency care.
Among the thousands was Sarah Upton whose nine-year-old daughter suffers from cerebral palsy. She says those responsible for the proposals should be "sectioned".
The 35-year-old, who lives in Catford, said: "She's used that hospital three times in two months when she's stopped breathing.
"If that happened and I phoned the ambulance we might not make it all the way to Woolwich.
"The person who proposed these plans needs to be sectioned. "They need hospital treatment."
The march was organised by Save Lewisham A&E - an umbrella group of campaigners such as NHS Public - which estimated the staggering number.
NHS Public spokeswoman Frances Hook said: "It was very lively. It was across the generations - teenagers, youngsters, parents. And ethnically it was a representation of the borough. It was completely fantastic.
"Lots of traffic must have been stuck for hours. There was complete support - bus drivers had their thumbs up."
She went on to say that the march has galvanised the cause and campaigners will now look at the Trust Special Administrator's (TSA) documents to prove that the figures are not correct.
UNISON Branch Secretary at Lewisham Hospital Conroy Lawrence added: "We are overwhelmed by the response of the local community, that in the cold and incessant rain over 10,000 people from all parts of the community would rally to defend the hospital, is truly inspiring to the staff at the hospital.
"This campaign has the full support of the medical, nursing and professional staff and their unions and with the support of the local community we are unstoppable.
"The people have spoken and the politicians and bureaucrats would do well to listen."
A human chain around the threatened hospital was originally planned but was scrapped so as not to disrupt services at the hospital. After the march, people grouped at the back of the hospital where speeches were held.
Speaking about the event, a Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust spokesman said: "We welcome the support of local people, who share our pride in the Trust’s high quality services.
"We recognise that the NHS faces pressures, and hard decisions will be made. However, we do not feel that a prescriptive approach to service change is right."
He added that the trust will submit a formal response to the public consultation and encourages staff, patients and local people to get involved.
The online consultation about TSA Matthew Kershaw's proposals closes midnight on December 13. Visit tsa.nhs.uk to have your say.