It was no day for a demo. But they came from across south-east London. These placards greeted me when I jumped on a bus in Charlton.

When I arrived, twenty minutes before the march started, there were three or four hundred there.

When I left, twenty minutes after the march started, there were three or four thousand setting off down Lewisham High Street.

Thousands of marchers – hundreds of stories.

Organisers say 15,000 had joined the march by the time it reached Ladywell Fields.

I’m told Labour Party members were abused on the march – I got grief from a man for even talking to someone holding Greenwich Labour Party’s banner. It’s possibly a little unfair on the Lewisham councillors, mayor Steve Bullock and MP Heidi Alexander who have all endorsed this march. But memories of the Labour government’s PFI which created Queen Elizabeth Hospital, starting the process which led to this mess, linger long in this, a part of London which has little time for those who try it on.

The numbers on the march are as much a warning to the Labour party as much as the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Are any of them listening?

For more on the protest, visit For more on the proposals, see the adminstrator’s website.

43 replies on “Thousands march to demand Lewisham A&E stays open”

  1. A great turn out of people even on a wet and cold day,and the support is growing stronger by the day.We the public shall not be defeated.

  2. I’m not sure how seriously to take the abuse of members of the Labour Party you mention, if it came from friends of those trying to sell newspapers then I think it is water off a ducks back. Indeed among the very few times I received abuse as an activist for Labour being shouted at by revolutionaries count as a badge of honour, alongside abuse from a BNP supporter.

  3. This demonstration was highly significant not just for Lewisham but for the whole country.

    Let’s be clear, the proposal the close the Accident and Emergency department at Lewisham Hospital has nothing to do with local conditions; it is driven by national policy.

    The immediate cause of the proposed closure stems from the bankrupting of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. Under powers introduced under Gordon Brown in 2000 the Government has appointed an administrator to run the trust and make it ‘viable’.

    This seems crazy bit there is method in this madness. The idea is to get people to accept the logic of the market when thinking about health. Once this has been accomplished any debate about health care has to take place within the boundaries of rigid monetary limits and the objective becomes ‘financial viability’ rather than anything to do with what happens to people.

    This is part of a long term strategy of destroying the National Health Service. This is more deep-seated and long-term than a whim of the present Government. This is a project of the British establishment as a whole (aka ‘the powers that be’).

    How do you boil a frog? The popular story is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

    Of course the trick is to heating is sufficiently gradual for the unfortunate frog not to notice.

    So far the attack on the NHS has been progressing at a slow pace over the last two decades or so. The bankrupting of an entire Health trust and the ensuing cuts represents a clear change of pace. The people of Lewisham have noticed. If we can continue campaigning on the scale of Saturday the 24th November then we can alert frogs all over the country. This will mean that the powers that be, to use David Cameron’s phrase, REALLY won’t be able to’ carry on in the old way’.

    This is serious stuff.

  4. “Under powers introduced under Gordon Brown in 2000 the Government has appointed an administrator to run the trust and make it ‘viable’.”

    Of course that should be ‘2009’ not ‘2000’.

  5. And the Liberal Democrats you ask. Well by chance in your seventh photo the man holding the placard in front of the policeman is none else that Chris Maines, leader of the Lib Dems in Lewisham!
    And their blogpost on the matter is on the right track I’d say
    Anyway, it’s no time to abuse politicians or foster divsions, we want them to work together to help sort this out and I can safely say that I’m broadly pleased with the local Labour position on this issue but of course you can see the phisical discomfort they suffer anytime PFI is mentioned, I take no joy out of it, what I’d really like is that they’d grow out of it, admitted a mistake and asked for legislation to allow easy renegotiations of these ghastly pfi contracts like the Woolwich Hospital one. And that would be one to bring to the attention of national politics.

  6. The Greenwich and Woolwich Labour members weren’t abused on the march (at least not to our faces). The only criticism we got was from a people before profit protester at Ladywell Fields at the end.

  7. We are all clear about the problems and need no reminders about the mistakes of the past in respect of the PFI. Work needs to continue to resolve this matter. However the PFI debt is only a small proportion of the current financial deficit. I am not underestimating the issue but making the point for the purposes of clarity. I hear lots of comment about the problems but very little about the solutions. Frankly the budget deficit reflects on poor management and financial control. This clearly cannot continue and steps to secure financial stability in the interests of patients need to take place.

    In the unlikely event that the Government is prepared to increase the level of funding and there are arguements as to why it should. We are left with the proposals set out in the Administrators Draft Report. Clearly the debate to date has,rightly,been about reductions of services,particularly at Lewisham.

    There are enormous challenges that need to be resolved. The morale of staff is of a worry. Demoralised by reductions in staff numbers and pay are important factors must be sorted. We must have clarity as to the staffing levels as part of these proposals if this report is accepted by the Secretary of State. If we are to believe that these proposals will create an improved service and a sustainable future we need to have further details on structures particularly the proposed improvements in community services.

  8. John Fahy sid:

    “the PFI debt is only a small proportion of the current financial deficit. I am not underestimating the issue ”

    I’m afraid that you ARE underestimating the issue of PFI

    According to Mr. Kershaw’s report the Trust’s projected debt for next year is £79.1 million (page 8). Total payments to the PFI contractors will be £69 million (page 13).

    In theory this £69 million is in payment for services. The practice is rather different.

    The contracts are fiendishly complex and anything not specified is regarded as an “extra service”. At the same time there is a blanket ban on NHS staff doing anything that is considered to be the prerogative of the contractor.

    For example: When administrative workers in an NHS hospital I know of needed to move a filing cabinet to another office they were forbidden by the terms of the contact from doing it themselves. In order to have moved, they had to fill in a form to get the PFI contractors do for then. The filing cabinet was eventually moved: the bill for this “extra service” was £2,000.

    Anyone who has studied PFI contracts knows that they are extremely profitable, not just for the main contractor but for the layers of sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors involved.

    “So, Nat’ralists observe, a Flea
    Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey;
    And these have smaller Fleas to bite ’em;
    And so proceed ad infinitum.”

    If fact the only people who don’t do well out of them are:
    a) the workers who actually deliver the service (who are on National Mininimum level wages) and
    b) the public

    The way out of this mess is to get rid of this nest of fleas that is PFI. This would save money not just in Greenwich and Lewisham and the NHS but across the whole government both local and national.

  9. I fully agree that PFI contracts are a mistake. However in the context of SLHT,my understanding is that it represents 15% of the budget. I stand to be corrected if I have got it wrong.

  10. “I fully agree that PFI contracts are a mistake. However in the context of SLHT,my understanding is that it represents 15% of the budget.”

    This is persiflage.

    Whether it’s 15% or 31% of the budget is of little moment.

    The problem for SLHT is deficit: the amount it’s income falls short of it’s expenditure.

    PFI is a gigantic rip off and it was annuled the gap could be closed without any cuts.

  11. @ George Hallam. The PFI contracts were only complicated to the public servants who signed them. They appear to be quite straight forward to the private sector firms involved.

  12. The PFI issue is more complex – there is outstanding debt which is 31% of the debt, then there is the ongoing contract which costs the trust an arm and a leg. Closing the services at Lewisham only saves £17m a year (and I argue that not all of that is actually saved to the NHS as maternity services for 5,000 births need to be provided somewhere and at a non-negligible cost.)

  13. “The PFI contracts were only complicated to the public servants who signed them. They appear to be quite straight forward to the private sector firms involved.”

    Have you ever seen a PFI contract?

    No, me neither.

    However, I do know an archivist who has to deal with the documentation of a PFI. Apparently it’s vast.

    I’ve just taken a break to do the washing up and to tidy the kitchen. No doubt you do the same yourself sometimes. So try this thought experiment sometime.

    1) writing down all the things that need doing to do the washing up and to tidy your kitchen.
    2) getting a clearer to do these tasks.
    3) turning that list into a contract.
    4) getting a clearer WITH AN ACCOUNTANT AND A LEGAL ADVISER to do these tasks.

    Can you now see why, if you extend this to specifying what needs to a whole building, you might well get ripped off by a private sector firms.

  14. Helland. Lots of contracts are complicated. Buyer beware. If you do not fully understand the risks or complexities of what is in front of you dont sign it. Hire a lawyer.

  15. Thanks Cllr Fahy. I hope to hear more people in office saying it clearly. I’ve detected quite a lot of reluctance to say it so far, hopefully there will be a change in attitudes now.

    BTW, a new public meeting has been announced for tomorrow Wednesday at 7pm here in Lewisham at the Broadway Theatre in Catford.

  16. Unfortunately, that meeting also clashes with one organised by Greenwich and Eltham Labour Parties at Lionel Road Community Centre in Eltham (and also Lewisham Council’s full meeting, where it’s on the agenda).

  17. John Fahy said,

    “Of course I support the renegotiation of the PFI.”


    This puts the spotlight on the PFI and opens up a whole new area for saving money.

    So how much might we save?

    As you will know Kershaw is asking the Government for £25.1 million to help cover the deficit.

    £25.1 million? That seems extraordinarily precise. Why not just £25? or if one is going to use decimals £25.2 million? Why not ask the Government for £30.1?

    Kershaw doesn’t say; but informed sources tell me that he chose £25.1 million because he can easily show that this is the MINIMUM the contactors have overcharged.

    If we go for renegotiation, then we should be looking to reduce the cost of the PFI by a MINIMUM of £25.1 million.

    Clearly, the government can afford the £25.1 million (Kershaw’s plan depends on it and it would be pointless him asking if he thought he couldn’t get it)
    So 25.1 x 2 = 50.2
    £50.2 is 63.5 per cent of the projected deficit.

    This means that the calculations in the Consultation document are now redundant.

  18. @George Hallam “£25.1 million? That seems extraordinarily precise”. Maybe he stmbled upon Excel or one of those old style HP calculators? When you say the government can afford it, you do realise that “the government” is just another way of saying ‘the tax payer’. We would not be saving money just shuffling around which bit of the state pays the bill. Plus who are ‘we’ negotiating with? Local vs state government. NHS trust vs state government or with the firm itself? If its anything other than the later then no money is saved.

  19. @Richard – but NHS London as a whole has a surplus, some of that money could be used. Savings would then be made because there would be fewer future payments.

  20. “you do realise that “the government” is just another way of saying ‘the tax payer’”

    Do you realise that you know nothing about economics?

  21. @George. Takes one to know one. Maybe I should have attended your economics classes at your ‘university’.

  22. Darryl wrote
    “Richard and George, there, showing gentlemen debating at their best.”

    Darryl, when it comes to debating you’re no slouch yourself.

    It’s a nice touch to bracket my comments with Richard’s posts.

    This is a grave issue and it requires sober analysis. I would have thought you would have worked out by now who is serious and who is not.

    I suggest that you make it clear where you stand.

  23. OK then in the spirit of gentlemanly debate. I take issue with George’s inability to respond, here and elsewhere, to valid criticisms of his arguments. You seem to to confuse your own ideology with economic fact or theory. You are happy to quote official documents but when your interpretation of such analysis is questioned you are only capable of responding with insults and never actually answer the criticism with any rational argument and certainly no facts. Your grasp of economics seems either confused (see your misrepresentation of the ONS health spending stats on the bugle) or if not confused then is deliberatly misleading. To many your sober argument is irrational ideology that is not supported by either the facts or theory. Why does this bother me? You are a politician so I feel free to question and mock you here since this is the new public square.

  24. On Monday afternoon at the TSA’s consultation meeting in Brockley I asked Matthew Kershaw if the £25.1million he has asked the government to fund, per year, towards the PFI repayments of £69million was the amount by which he felt it was overpriced. I asked if he thought the taxpayers should be paying that, whether directly by central government or via the NHS trust. He said that this was the sum by which he thought the repayments were excessive compared to the local ability to pay. (i.e. in a different area of Britain £69 might not be excessive if there were more money, more patients, or something) and not related to the rip-off interest rates being charged on an initial outlay of £210million 8 to 10 years ago, of which at least £455 has already been paid back (£535 has been paid, but around £8m per year is not “repayments” but payment for “services” like cleaning, I T support, etc. at inflated prices, so around £80m max).

    I also asked him if the initial PFI contractors, Barclays Private Equity, Taylor-Woodrow and Innisfree were still the beneficiaries of the contract. This is generally secret information and even BBC’s File on 4 was unable to get straight answers (see ). Matthew Kershaw said that the contracts was substantially in the same hands, so we know who to approach with a request to reduce the payments or annul the contract.

    There’s a short video of the consultation meeting at or at It leaves Matthew Kershaw in no doubt of people’s hostility to his proposals.

  25. Richard wrote:
    “You seem to to confuse your own ideology with economic fact or theory.”

    If you want to debate then we had better define our terms:
    You can start by saying what you mean by ‘ideology’ and ‘economic theory’

    I’d also be interested to hear what my “own ideology” was.

  26. I would say your ideology is as expressed on your political party’s website and in its various manifestos. Your view of economic theory will predicated on your ideology. Thats fine it is just that when asked about specific policies that you advocate you seem unable to or unwilling to offer much in the way of empirical evidence in support. A favourtite trick of yours seem to try and enage in a circular discussion regarding untestable opinions. This is a case in point, what do I mean by ideology and economic theory? outside the SCR (or even JCR) are concepts most people would be comfortable using. I worry about parties such as yours which paint the world in very black or white terms and suggest you offer hope to vulnerable people by the way of seemingly simple solutions. I think your party is very dangerous.

  27. I come here for the erudite discussion, I really do.

    “You know nothing about economics” appears to be the current favourite insult for the commentariat. I’ll tell you what, rather than insult each other, maybe the two of you should be doing more to explain the dismal science and its relevance to the lay person? Just a thought.

    Slightly back on-topic, I have cause to use the Princess Royal Hospital (I live in Bromley) and it is bursting at the seams already. The public transport is appalling and the parking is woefully inadequate. How it’d cope with a load more ‘custom’ is beyond me.

  28. @ Stuart – It was obviously a mistake on my part to respond to Richard’s post with a throw away remark.

    Richard wrote:
    “you do realise that “the government” is just another way of saying ‘the tax payer’”

    The problem is that this is based on assumptions that are jejune, to the extent that it almost takes ones breath away. I was in a hurry.

    You want me to explain the dismal science and its relevance to the lay person. I’m game. But how long have you got?

    Government spending is not just the sum of taxes paid by individuals. It dosen’t just pay for deliver services that are best provided collectively.

    In a developed money economy government spending is an important part of the economic system. It is a means to ensures that money circulated and so keeps the economy running. So this spending can maintain and even create wealth.

    At the moment we are told that the British economy is heading for a ‘triple dip’. Many, economist think that this may have something to do with the programme of austerity (reduced spending leads to reduced economic activity).

    It’s not even true that all government spending is provided by the tax payers. Historically, governments have run businesses and used the profits to finance the state. Government’s typically control the currency. This too can be used to finance state spending.

    And before you ask: no, it doesn’t have to result in inflation (there are numerous example of the benign effects of ‘printing money’).’

    Of course, it often has resulted in inflation. I don’t like to ‘come the old soldier’ but have been around quite a long time, long enough to see economic fashions change several time. This has made me pretty ‘cool’ about inflation. Yes, it causes some problems, but it solves others. From an economics perspective inflation alters the balance of advantage between lenders and borrowers.

    The inflation of the 1970’s, for example was bad for lenders but it was great for mortgage payers.

    That’s enough economics for now.

    By the way none of the above is especially controversial. It’s all in mainstream textbooks, if you know where to look.

  29. As dull as you find me George it doesn’t make you correct. Government is the tax payer as all revenues ultimately must be generated by the wealth producing sector of the economy. Even using the proceeds of seigniorage as you allude to is ultimately robbing future tax payers’ funds, not that this is necessarily bad in all cases.

    Of course printing money generates inflation since inflation is always a monetary phenomenon. Inflation may be low currently but is surely higher than it would otherwise have been without QE. If the BOE expands its balance sheet for ever we would generate massive inflation. High inflation (say >10%) is bad in all cases since it creates uncertainty.

    As for you point regarding austerity in the UK. I would suggest that when the ONS finally revises its GDP estimates in several years there will be no double dip let alone a triple dip. Basically published GDP figures are always revised for many years as more data becomes available the question is rather why is the UK’s growth rate so low. The answer is in the state of the household and government’s balance sheets. The US will cut state spending by 2% next year but will still grow at nearly 3% by the end of the year as their balance sheets have been cleaned up in the private sector allowing a more normal Ricardian/Mundell-Fleming adjustment. That’s why the recent IMF paper on fiscal multipliers was so poor and why the anti-cuts lobby are so wrong. The government has rowed right back on its austerity programme to such an extent that the UK is not experiencing any meaningful state spending cuts.

    Hopefully thats less dull for you.

  30. “Government is the tax payer as all revenues ultimately must be generated by the wealth producing sector of the economy.”

    Only if you redefine ‘tax’ to mean the same as ‘government revenue’.

    If you want to use the word in this way thats fine by me (and Lewis Carroll).

    Meanwhile economists will continue with their own usage.

    “.. economists do not consider many transfers to governments to be taxes. For example, some transfers to the public sector are comparable to prices. Examples include tuition at public universities and fees for utilities provided by local governments. Governments also obtain resources by creating money (e.g., printing bills and minting coins), through voluntary gifts (e.g., contributions to public universities and museums), by imposing penalties (e.g., traffic fines), by borrowing, and by confiscating wealth. From the view of economists, a tax is a non-penal, yet compulsory transfer of resources from the private to the Public sector levied on a basis of predetermined criteria and without reference to specific benefit received.”

  31. George come on now. The government is funded via taxes or by borrowing. The later has to be paid back by future tax receipts. Printing money as discussed is an inter-temporal transfer. Granted the state can also levy parking fines and may be the recipiant of gifts. I would humbly suggest that these are almost 0% on the grand scheme of things and anyways must be generated by private sector wealth. Anyway my Mother always told me not to pick on those less fortunate than me so Ill leave you and wiki alone alone.

  32. Economists are very like the racing tipsters in our daily papers , telling us which horses are going to
    win the races on that day. The following day they tell us why didn’t win .

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