LEWISHAM Council is considering legal action over a consultation to close the local A&E, it was claimed at an angry meeting on the area's health shake-up.
Councillor Liam Curran made the claim, unconfirmed by the council, during a packed public meeting at the Calabash Centre, George Lane, Ladywell, which almost never started due to constant booing and yelling at trust administrator Matthew Kershaw.
He was surrounded and heckled by protestors both on his way in and out of the venue, while an attempt to show a video on the proposals, branded "a patronising pile of old bilge" by one woman, was cut short when the audience started chanting: "Turn it off".
More than 500 attended, some packed into side rooms or left outside, and Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander had to make a plea for calm so that answers to audience questions from a panel could be heard.
The trust's panel was faced with an uphill struggle as they tried to claim that closing people's nearest A&E department to deal with a financial crisis in a neighbouring borough would be "in the best interests of yourselves".
Dr Jane Fryer, chief medical advisor, repeated the claim, disputed by many audience members, that 77 per cent of current A&E patients would still be seen at Lewisham, saying: "We're not closing Lewisham A&E. For those people who are the most urgently ill, they'll be taken to one of four emergency hospitals."
"They'll be dead by then," yelled a protestor.
One audience member claimed her husband's life was saved at Lewisham and initial plans to take him to King's College Hospital were abandoned because there would be no free beds for six days.
Others paid tribute to the maternity services, also under threat of closure, while a clinician questioned why there had been no mention of children's services. She was told the "vast majority" of paediatric care would still take place in Lewisham but seriously ill children would be treated elsewhere.
And the claim that the average time it would take to get to A&E after the closure would increase from 13.2 minutes to 20.6 was greeted with derision.
At the end Councillor Liam Curran branded the process "the shammest of the sham", announcing: "Lewisham Council is investigating a legal challenge to the whole basis of this consultation."
He then asked the panel: "At what point did you have the spirit and fight sucked out of you?"
- A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: "The council will be agreeing its own formal response to the consultation on Monday 10 December.
"We hope that the special administrator listens to this and to all the views that are being put to him so strongly by Lewisham’s community and that his final recommendations are a better reflection of what Lewisham people want.”
Days left to save Lewisham A&E
Under plans by the trust special administrator, Lewisham Hospital A&E will be downgraded, taking only non-complex patients, leaving Queen Elizabeth Hospital serving three boroughs. The maternity unit could also shut.
There are now just days left to respond to the consultation. Visit tsa.nhs.uk and make sure you have your say.
A petition signed by 22,138 people is online at ipetitions.com/petition/lewisham-hospital/. It is due to be presented at Downing Street tomorrow, along with further petitions signed by health professionals.
A further consultation meeting takes place at Bexley Civic offices tomorrow (Dec 7) from 10am.
Campaigners are planning a torchlit vigil outside the hospital from 4pm on December 13 - the day the consultation ends. All are welcome.
To find out more about the campaign, and for tips on filling out the consultation form, visit savelewishamhospital.com