Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 4, February 24, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Letter to the Editor

South East London Campaign Stops Cuts In Children's Mental Health

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign (SLHC) recently led a successful fight to oppose proposed cuts to children's mental health services in Lewisham Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

Lewisham Council had already cut local children's mental health funding by £94,000 last year and had planned to cut them further by £15,000 over the next two years. The cuts in CAMHS are the result of government austerity cuts of £153 million imposed on Lewisham Council with more to come. The government has been imposing massive budget cuts to councils throughout the country, severely damaging essential services. This is widely perceived to have the aim of starving these public services of funds and create the conditions for further privatisation while the claims of the people are disregarded.

SLHC ran a vigorous campaign to oppose the cuts to CAMHS, giving out thousands of leaflets at railway stations and streets in the Lewisham area and organising a petition which has been signed by over 6,000 people. The leaflet from SLHC pointed out that the cuts would hit vulnerable children and families very severely and that waiting lists, already unacceptably long, would grow even longer. The leaflet also stated that patients are already being sent to other hospitals, often miles from London, and praised Lewisham CAMHS, saying that "it is a well-respected service - skilled clinicians with high morale, choosing to work here, valuing the support they have given to schools, GP surgeries and other local facilities".

This campaign reached a climax in a very successful local meeting in New Cross to oppose the cuts attended by over 100 people. Speakers included Maggie Palmer from CAMHS/Unite, a parent, a former service user, Chair of the SLHC Dr Louise Irvine, an NUT representative, Dr Omer Magrehbi, and Vicky Foxcroft MP. Many parents and NHS service users spoke movingly and angrily opposed the cuts. Tony O'Sullivan from Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and SLHC chaired the meeting and read out a message of support from Jon Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health:

"Because of Parliamentary commitments I can't be with you. But I wanted to send my solidarity to you and congratulate the health campaigners of Lewisham who do all of us proud. As I understand it, nearly £100,000 will be cut from CAMHS this year in Lewisham. The truth is under the Tories, children and young people with diagnosable mental health problems are being let down by overstretched and underfunded Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, which is disgracefully being cut back."

On February 14, the SLHC organised a Valentine Picket outside Lewisham Town Hall to lobby the Lewisham Mayor and cabinet and hand in the petition against the cuts. After the picket, Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock said at the Mayor and Cabinet meeting that the council was "reversing its decision on cuts to Children's and Young People's Mental Health Services (CAMHS) on the basis of change of circumstances since the decision was made. The next two years' cuts would not happen now." Campaign members applauded in response and Councillor Alan Hall also made a supportive speech.

This successful campaign shows that a crucial issue in the fight to save the NHS is where the decision-making power lies. Is it to be the government, which is hell-bent on undermining and destroying the NHS, or the people of this country who want to preserve their NHS? In this fight to save their local children's mental health services, the people of Lewisham took the decision into their own hands and successfully fought to save them.

No To Healthcare Cuts! Healthcare Is A Right!

Activist of the SLHC


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