ORGANISERS say at least 20,000 people have joined a march today to protest against the proposed closure of Lewisham A&E and maternity services.

Residents, health workers, business leaders and politicians from across south east London gathered at Loampit Vale before marching down towards the hospital.

Traffic held up by the march beeped horns in support while the biggest cheers of the day came as protestors walked past the hospital, a small group of nurses waving them on.

Thousands gathered at a muddy Mountsfield Park to hear speeches from speakers including MPs, campaigners and radio show host Nick Ferrari, whose son's life was saved by Lewisham doctors.

Save Lewisham Hospital campaigner Dr Louise Irvine told News Shopper: "It's so exciting and I'm really proud. We have to thank everybody who's supported this campaign."

She said: "But even if Lewisham is saved we still have to fight to save services in Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley where 100s of jobs will be lost.

"This is the spearhead of a real fight back. We're saying 'no more, we're drawing a line'."

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander branded the plans, made to solve financial problems at the neighbouring South London Heathcare Trust, "sheer madness".

She told the crowds: "This whole process from the off has been driven by an accountant's bottom line."

Click here to see pictures from the Save Lewisham Hospital protest

Jim Doolin, 76, of Ladywell said: "It's about saving the NHS. Everybody needs it from the cradle to the grave. You have to defend it."

Natalie Beaumont, who works at the hospital and was the star of BBC show The Choir, said she was "overwhelmed" by the support.

She said: "When we walked past the hospital I wanted to cry.

"It's just shown people the Lewisham community supports us. Jeremy Hunt should listen to these people, the people who matter."

Mr Hunt is due to make his decision by February 1. If he backs the closures, Lewisham Council is expected to make a legal challenge.