THE appointment of a leader for the proposed merging of Lewisham and Woolwich hospital trusts “makes a mockery” of the public consultation process, say councillors.

Chief Executive of Lewisham NHS Trust Tim Higginson was yesterday asked to head a new controversial joint organisation - which is only in its draft report stage - and comes days after a public consultation was launched over the issue.

It follows South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) administrator Matthew Kershaw’s recommendations that Lewisham Healthcare and Queen Elizabeth Woolwich hospitals join together – to massive public backlash.

Under the proposals, Lewisham Hospital could lose its newly-refurbished A&E – which currently sees around 120,000 patients a year – and its maternity services where around 4,000 babies were delivered last year.

News Shopper: The newly-installed birthing suite at Lewisham Hospital is under threat

Mr Higginson accepted the new role offered by Chief Executive of London’s Strategic Health Authority Ruth Carnall despite the ongoing public consultation which runs until December 13.

Lewisham Healthcare stresses that Mr Higginson's main role will remain as Chief Executive of the trust and he will continue to argue for changes to the recommendations for the hospital.

Leader of the Lewisham Labour Group Councillor Alan Hall said: "This smacks of a full steam ahead approach and makes a mockery out of any consultations. This is supposed to be a draft report but it is being implemented immediately."

While Liberal Democrat Cllr Chris Maines added: "Thousands of Lewisham residents have been angered by proposals that our hospital absorbs vast PFI debts and closes modern facilities because of the failures of the neighbouring Trust.

“This announcement by Health managers that they have already sorted out the top jobs, shows their arrogance and complete disregard of public opinion."

Announcing the appointment, Ruth Carnall, NHS London Chief Executive said: “This appointment will ensure there is clear leadership in place to do the planning and preparation ahead of the final report and subsequent final decision by the Secretary of State next year."

She added that if the recommendation gets the go-ahead, a lot of essential groundwork would already be in place for the new organisation.

Chair for Lewisham Healthcare Elizabeth Butler said: "It is important to stress that Tim Higginson will continue to be Chief Executive of Lewisham Healthcare, and this remains his substantive role. 

"He will spend the majority of his time on Lewisham Healthcare business, and there is a clear separation between this and his other role as CEO designate. 

"Most importantly, the role will not affect his ability to continue to argue for changes to the TSA’s recommendations which are in Lewisham’s interests."

On the proposals for Lewisham Healthcare to work with Queen Elizabeth, Ms Butler added:"This announcement does not anticipate the Secretary of State’s decision on the TSA’s recommendations, but it does make sense to carry out early preparatory work, and this is what Tim Higginson has been asked to lead.

"We think that coming together with Queen Elizabeth would help us to meet the financial challenges which the TSA has identified. 

"However, we have said that we want to plan for the future, carrying out active engagement with patients, GPs, staff, local people and partners to ensure any plans are sustainable."

Get involved

Hundreds turned out to a Save Lewisham Hospital's A&E public meeting meeting last week (Nov 8) and are rallying support for a human chain around the threatened hospital on November 24 at 3pm.

Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander launched an online petition against the proposed closures which currently stands at 11,533. To add your name, visit

The online consultation about Mr Kershaw's proposals closes midnight on December 13. Visit to have your say.

Upcoming public meetings about the future of NHS in Lewisham and Greenwich

November 15 SLHT administrator Matthew Kershaw will be at a meeting about the report at Woolwich Town Hall at 6.30pm.

November 16 Goldsmith’s College public meeting 10am to 12pm

November 19 Woolwich Town Hall 7pm to 9pm

November 21 Greenwich Forum, 10am to 12pm

November 26 St Andrew’s Centre, Brockley, 2pm to 4pm

November 26 St Mary's Community Centre, Eltham, 7pm to 9pm

December 3 Charlton Football Club, 7pm to 9pm


Statistics about Lewisham Hospital’s A&E and Maternity Centre

  • Lewisham A&E currently sees around 120,000 patients a year. The proposed 24/7 Urgent Care Centre would only see around 75 per cent of these people.
  • Top three A&E admissions between Nov 2011 – Oct 2012 were: Injury/Wound: 25,644, Respiratory: 12,006, Gastro-intestinal: 8,877

Maternity Centre

  • There were 3,973 births between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2012
  • There have been 878 births in the Birth Centre over the past 12 months (1st November 11 – 31st October 2012)
  • There have been 2,013 births in total since the Birth Centre opened in May 2012 (as of 31st October 2012)
  • An average of 73 babies per month are delivered in the Birth Centre

News Shopper: Lewisham Hospital maternity services are under threat