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I am grateful for the opportunity to hold this debate today, Dr McCrea, and I am very pleased that other hon. Members are here in Westminster Hall to take part in it.
In the two and a half years that I have been the MP for Lewisham East, I have not known an issue to cause as much anger and concern as the proposals that are currently on the table to close the A and E department and the maternity department at Lewisham hospital. I know from my colleagues, my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock and my hon. Friend Jim Dowd, that in the 20 or so years that they have served the people of Lewisham, they too have not witnessed such outrage and disbelief over an issue.
Lewisham is not the only place in south London where emergency and maternity services are under threat. There has been a long-running dispute about the future of St Helier hospital, and of course changes at any hospital will always impact on neighbouring areas. Patients displaced by the closure of one unit have to go elsewhere. Children who are hurt and elderly people who have had a bad fall do not disappear into thin air; they still need treatment. Mums-to-be still need somewhere to give birth. It is not possible to close and A and E department that sees 115,000 people a year and axe a maternity department in which more than 4,000 babies are born each year and not to expect other hospitals to feel the impact.
This issue affects not only Lewisham but people across south London. The real problem is that there is no free capacity in the other hospitals close by to deal with the demand for hospital services that will be displaced.