More than 25,000 demonstrators lit up the streets of south London at the weekend in a mass protest against cuts to Lewisham Hosptial's A&E and maternity departments.
Drummers, "native Americans" and a brass band were among the crowd - a good 10,000 more than the first demonstration last November - who showed up to fight against plans to make Lewisham Hospital pay the price for crippling PFI debts saddled on South London Healthcare Trust.
Special administrator Matthew Kershaw was called in last year to help sort out the trust's finances and recommended its three hospital's - Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, the Princess Royal in Orpington and Queen Mary's in Sidcup - be "broken up" and sold to the highest bidder.
As part of his cost-cutting plans he suggested that Lewisham's A&E close with local patients being forced to seek alternative services provided at hospitals further away.
Mr Kershaw also suggested the trust's PFI debt should be written off to make it more attractive to potential buyers.
This has sparked fury among campaigners who argue that if PFI debt can be written off for private benefit then it should be written off for public benefit.
But the final decision on Mr Kershaw's plans lies with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who once said the NHS should be "denationalised" and operate as a US-style private health insurance system.
Mr Hunt is due to make a decision on February 1.
Unite executive director of policy and local resident Steve Turner, who spoke at a rally in Mountsfield Park, said: "Jeremy Hunt needs to think very carefully because the residents of Lewisham have already shown that they will not roll over to allow patients in south east London to face a NHS run by private companies and so-called social enterprises."
Nurses who appeared in the Olympic opening ceremony and players from local team Millwall Football Club, which rescheduled its FA cup fourth round tie with Aston Villa in order to avoid clashing with the demonstration, also turned out.
One nurse Sarah Jones told the Star: "Lewisham Hospital shouldn't be used to bail out a failing trust that it isn't even part of."
LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari, who also spoke at the rally, said his eldest son who has a rare condition would probably not be alive today if it was not for Lewisham hospital.
Nurse and Unison Lewisham Hospital branch secretary Mike Davey added: "This has been an historic demonstration with of over 25,000, representing a total cross section of our community. Surely this cannot be ignored by this government - a government which stated in its manifesto it would ensure no forced closure of A&E departments.
"On behalf of Lewisham Hospital staff we would like to thank those who turned out to support us from the bottom of our hearts and we pledge ourselves to continue to fight this undemocratic and dangerous attempt to close Lewisham A&E department for as long as it should take."
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