Could Lewisham Hospital A&E close after South London Healthcare Trust administration?
CAMPAIGNERS and politicians are on "high alert" as fears grow the financial mess at a neighbouring health trust could close Lewisham Hospital's A&E.
Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public is warning the facility could shut as part of recommendations by the administrator of the debt-ridden South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT).
An online campaign - savelewishamhospital.com - has been launched to save the unit, though Lewisham's health trust insists talk of closure is still mere speculation.
However, Lewisham Healthcare Trust has confirmed it is one of 39 providers who have bid to run part of SLHT, saying it is exploring ways to work with Woolwich's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Campaigners are concerned that, if the two were to merge, Lewisham's A&E could shut to save funds, leaving Queen Elizabeth to pick up the slack.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock told News Shopper: "We're on high alert in Lewisham."
He went on: "I'm not leaping to conclusions at this stage but I'm confident the minute the report is published I'll be sitting down with colleagues both at the town hall and elsewhere to see what the implications for Lewisham are."
Sir Steve pointed out that the A Picture of Health review in 2009, which led to the SLHT's creation, had recommended reduced opening hours at the hospital, though the plan was later ditched.
The mayor said: "If it were to be suggested I'd expect to work with colleagues both politically and across the borough to say 'up with this we will not put'.
Lewisham A&E is absolutely vital to 250,000 residents around the borough."
A Lewisham Healthcare Trust spokesman said: "We realise there are a number of rumours about the outcome of the administrator's review, including conjecture about the future of emergency services in Lewisham. However, it is important to note that nothing has been decided."
The South London Healthcare Trust was put into administration in July after racking up a £69m deficit.
Special administrator Matthew Kershaw now runs the trust, which controlled Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Sidcup's Queen Mary's, Bromley's Princess Royal and Orpington Hospital.
On October 29, Mr Kershaw will publish his proposals, and is expected to recommend disbanding the trust, with numerous providers having bid to take over sections of its services.
A consultation will follow in November with a final decision by the Secretary of State for Health due next February.
When asked, the administrator's office did not deny that Lewisham A&E closure could form part of the plans.
It said in a statement: "The administrator is developing a set of recommendations for the future of services currently provided by SLHT, which includes how they work within the wider south east London healthcare system.
"His priority is to ensure patients can access services that are safe, high quality, affordable and sustainable in the long term."