This afternoon saw the first of the local consultation meetings on the future of the South-East London NHS arranged by Special Administrator Matthew Kershaw. The room at Greenwich West Community Centre had space for about 200 people but was barely a quarter full.
The most dramatic but least useful part of the meeting occurred when a member of the audience declined to ask a question but instead mounted the platform, microphone in hand, and proceeded to stand right behind Kershaw and his female colleague haranguing them in a rather unpleasant and aggressive manner.
Before and after this intervention I thought Kershaw and his team gave a reasonable account of themselves before an unsympathetic audience, trying to answer all the points made but probably without convincing anyone of their case. They insisted that their proposals took account of likely population growth in the area. Kershaw declined to give a view on the principle of PFI but said that he has made confidential recommendations to the Department of Health which might lead to discussions with the PFI provider.
One West Greenwich resident said that her young son had been admitted to Lewisham Hospital as an emergency on several occasions and she was worried about the logistics of visiting him if he had to be admitted to QEII in future. She got a rather grudging admission that “a small minority” of patients with specific conditions might have to face longer journeys like this.
A well-informed woman from the National Childbirth Trust suggested that a four maternity unit solution would result in units very large by European standards and that evidence suggested that bigger maternity units were not necessarily better. She was effectively told that the review team had not completed their homework on the best size for maternity units.
Former Lewisham Mayoral candidate John Hamilton of the People Before Profit Party claimed never to have heard of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and asked whether it was a private health provider, I assume he was being disingenuous rather than profoundly ignorant.
Greenwich Councillor John Fahy asked a question which I think suggested - and apologies if I misunderstood him - that he would welcome a solution whereby Bexley patients travelled to Lewisham or Woolwich for day surgery.
Future meetings in the Borough will take place on
19th November 7pm Woolwich Town Hall
21st November 10am Forum at Greenwich
26th November 7pm St Mary’s Community Centre
3rd December 7pm Charlton FC
The author of this post is Paul Webbewood - a former Liberal Democrat councillor on Greenwich Council.