GREENWICH COUNCIL is opposing the closure of Lewisham A&E, its leader has confirmed.
The controversial proposal to close the emergency ward at Lewisham Hospital is one of the recommendations in the NHS Trust Special Administrator's draft report on the future of South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT).
But Councillor Chris Roberts has told this website, "We're opposing the closure of the Accident & Emergency at Lewisham and the Maternity Unit at Lewisham."
A draft response has been published on the council's website and is expected to be agreed next week before being submitted as an official reply to the Trust Administrator's consultation.
The decision to join calls for Lewisham A&E to be saved comes weeks after thousands of local people took to the streets to protest and a vocal campaign by Lewisham MPs and the council. But the leader of Greenwich Council defends the time taken by the Royal Borough to decide whether to formally oppose the plans:
"It will always be difficult if someone comes along and says 'we're going to shut down the Accident and Emergency in your borough.' You will always have a tone and immediate reaction.
"But the first question, frankly, we had to ask is 'If we say we don't support the closure of Lewisham, does that mean you come back and close Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH)?'
"We produced a long list of questions that were added to by our Health Scrutiny Panel that we gave to the Trust Administrator and said 'Before we say where we're coming down on this, we want to know the answers to some of these.'"
Cllr Roberts says he now believes that the case for keeping QEH has been made, enabling them to join the calls to save Lewisham A&E:
"We're very clear now from everyone we've spoken to, and we've had several conversations with the Administrator, that because of the existence of the PFI, which is paying for the renewal of the equipment every 5 years at Queen Elizabeth, you still have to pay that whether you keep the facility there or not so it doesn't make financial sense to say 'We've got to pay for this but we won't have it.'"
He continues: "Because Queen Mary [in Sidcup] has already lost its A&E, on any analysis of travel times and accessibility you couldn't really swap Lewisham for QEH but we wanted to make sure they felt that as well because whilst we don't think they should close Lewisham A&E, we didn't want to find that by making one argument they were just going to cut something else."
Cllr Roberts does, however, support the idea of Lewisham's and Greenwich's hospital being run by the same trust.
"We're broadly welcoming of putting Greenwich and Lewisham together in a hospital trust. One of the things that's been missed out in the discussions is that Lewisham did bid to run QEH when the expressions of interest were sought from NHS bodies or independent providers."
The comments from the Leader of Greenwich Council were part of a wide ranging interview with Greenwich.co.uk that will be published in full soon.