Next week is the deadline for responses to the consultation on A Picture of Health, which is proposing to drastically change the way health services are delivered in South East London. So, true to form I have left it until the last minute to respond.
I responded online, and reproduce my written-in comments below:
They asked: Do you agree that specialist care should be brought together in a smaller number of hospitals? (Particularly looking at A&E, maternity services and children's services).
I said: Emergency services need to be located in an accessible place, within travelling distance of the population served. Yes, people with serious injuries survive better if they go to a specialist centre, but this can still happen whilst keeping an A&E in a nearby hospital. After all, the majority of visits to A&E are not actually life-threatening.
Maternity services need to be located close to people's homes. They need to be within easy travelling distance. When our baby was born prematurely, it was some comfort to us that we could easily travel to see him in SCBU. Under the proposals in this consultation, our stress would have been significantly compounded. In addition, maternity services are already overstretched, with people unable to have appropriate ante-natal scans and checks due to lack of resources. It is difficult to see how closing a maternity unit would help this situation.
They asked: Do you agree that emergency and planned services should be separated? This would reduce the spread of hospital-acquired infections.
I said: I think you overstate the importance of healthcare associated infections in order to play on their fears and lead them to the view that you want, without proper hard evidence.
They asked: Do you agree that more care should be based in the community?
I said: I disagree if these are to be provided at the expense of A&E and maternity services being provided close to people.
They asked which of their outlined options I preferred.
I said: Option 2 is the least-bad option. It is simply not sensible to suggest that closing A&E and maternity/children's services at Lewisham would be good for the local community. Either option 1 or 3 would mean Lewisham residents having to travel completely unacceptable distances to access these services, at a time that is already stressful for them. Many Lewisham residents do not have access to a car and need to be able to travel by public transport to hospital. By getting rid of these services at Lewisham, you remove these people's ability to access these services.
Option 2 is the option that closes the least number of services at Lewisham.
Obviously these are just my own personal opinions and you will have yours. Make sure you respond to the consultation document so your voice is heard. You can respond online and it is really easy to do.