End The HIV ‘Crisis’ in Lewisham

End the HIV Crisis in Lewisham this World AIDS Day’s theme is end inequalities, end pandemics and end the corrosive stigma

This World AIDS Day theme is ‘End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.’ Many who have supported their friends, lovers, family members and colleagues living with HIV have experienced and challenged the corrosive stigma that still exists against people living with HIV. This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported. Since that time, where investments have met ambition, there has been huge progress, particularly in expanding access to treatment. By June 2021, 28.2 million people had access to HIV treatment, up from 7.8 million in 2010, although progress has slowed considerably according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

World AIDS Day message from the United Nations on colliding pandemics

“The red light is flashing. Progress against AIDS, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more. And make no mistake: AIDS remains a pandemic. To stop it we urgently need a bolder view of pandemic response that is capable of tackling the inequalities prolonging the AIDS pandemic. Many of these missing pieces to fight HIV are also allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to continue and leaving us dangerously unprepared for pandemics of the future,” says Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director.

In the UK the National AIDS Trust has said that we are at a crucial point in the fight against HIV.

It is now scientifically possible to end new cases of HIV by 2030. In January 2019, the UK government promised that it would meet this goal. The HIV Commission’s report has now provided a route map. After months of delay, the government is starting to draft its HIV action plan. NAT says: “We cannot afford to delay this any more.”

“Any HIV Action Plan is worthy of its name must genuinely start the process of ending new cases of HIV and support people to live well with HIV and AIDS.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has a project which operates across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This focuses on increasing HIV testing, and re-engaging with people who have stopped HIV treatment. It has helped provide additional HIV testing in University Hospital Lewisham A&E department, primary care settings, and in community organisations, as well as recall of those who are no longer in treatment. Some 115 Lewisham residents living with HIV have received treatment and care since the project started in November 2018.

I has campaigned with the NAT and local HIV organisations like Metro for many years. Earlier this year, I wrote to Matt Hancock who was then, Secretary of State for Health, about the need for action.


During the 1990s Lewisham did not have a specialist hospital based sexual health clinic. Following a successful campaign led by the voluntary sector, the local Community Health Council and LGBTQi+ groups a new clinic was opened at University Hospital Lewisham. The Alexis Clinic is much in demand as Lewisham’s centre for treating outpatients and inpatients with HIV in a confidential, comprehensive and patient-centred manner.

The Alexis Clinic provides a wide range of services for adults aged 16 and there are 850 registered patients. More than 50 per cent of them are heterosexual and most are of African origin. Many live on the poverty line and struggle with mental health problems. The Alexis Clinic say that the biggest challenge facing its clinical team is the issue of stigma.

Rates of HIV in Lewisham are amongst the highest in the country – figures from PHE accessed 290721

The rates of HIV infection in Lewisham need to be seen in the context that the UK maintains the largest HIV epidemic in western Europe. Lewisham as a London borough has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country, with 1,693 diagnosed.

Recently published research in Ireland around stigma and HIV, in the well respected National AIDS Manual, concluded that despite improved access to HIV treatment and prevention, the Irish HIV epidemic remains a significant public health concern, with annual increases in the number of infections. In 2019 the number of new diagnoses of 11 per 100,000 was much higher than the European average of 6.2. The rise in HIV infections coincided with significant health funding cuts since 2008. People living with HIV continue to feel stigmatised and this impacts upon health in varied ways, such as not seeking out healthcare services.

Perhaps, there needs to be some research into how the public discourse around HIV and the media coverage of it is having an impact on HIV treatment, care and prevention in the UK?

HIV and AIDS non governmental organisations promote the positive advances in medicine – and these are real and beneficial. However, there is still a question of whether we are reaching those who need support. As the researchers in Ireland put it: “Whose ‘health’ counts in a politics ‘that produce conditions of systematic negligence’, which disproportionately affect individuals with less access to power?”

To redress the balance, then access to advocacy and support service for individuals with HIV – and other conditions – needs to be prioritised.

This is one of the many reasons that Lewisham needs an independent disability advocacy service. Since the Lewisham Association of People with Disabilities closed its doors in Bellingham in December 2018 there is no organisation to advocate and represent those with disabilities in Lewisham and the small budget of around £50,000 remains unspent. Politics is about priorities and this must be one of them – without delay.

In advance of World AIDS Day on the 1st December 2021, I tabled a formal question at Lewisham Council. The latest statistics available and the text of the reply

Cllr Alan Hall’s formal Question tabled at Lewisham Council meeting 24th November 2021

Taking up the need to address the “Crisis in HIV and AIDS in the UK, London and Lewisham” and pointing out that Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham all have high rates of HIV and AIDS, in fact among the highest in Europe, I urged Lewisham Council to do more work and to address the issue of racism that I raised on the floor of the Council Chamber last year 2020.

Cllr Chris Best, cabinet member for Adult Services said: “I am not proud of the statistics at all” and she agreed there was more that needed to be done.

The full exchange between can be viewed here

Cllr Alan Hall moves a motion about HIV and AIDS services – Lewisham Council November 2017

A report on transforming sexual and reproductive health for BAME communities in Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham published on 3rd November 2020 says:

“Mainstream services must look at the way racial and HIV discrimination intersects when caring for BAME service users, so they can provide efficient care for individuals who may be coping with social isolation, stigma from the community as well as racial discrimination: something that is not necessarily relevant to the rest of the HIV positive community.”

I have joined campaigners calling for more government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. I say:

“There is a failure to act to end HIV. To end the prejudice, to end the stigma. In the Budget – earlier this year – the failure to allocate resources means that action is needed more urgently, if we are to put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on those who show real leadership and financial commitment now. We need to fund the fight and take the decision to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need real action now to end the colliding pandemics.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS said: “Ending inequalities to end AIDS is a political choice that requires bold policy reforms and requires money. We have reached a fork in the road. The choice for leaders to make is between bold action and half-measures.”

UN urges action to end HIV

Cllr Alan Hall was a trustee of the London Lighthouse, the pioneering HIV and AIDS hospice and centre in London.

Lewisham Public Health Publish Covid-19 Plan

Lewisham Council has published a COVID-19 Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan setting out how the Council will work with partners, including Public Health England, to prevent, identify and manage any COVID-19 outbreaks in Lewisham and ensure that residents and communities are protected.

Local authorities have been responsible for improving the health of their local population and for public health services including most sexual health services and services aimed at reducing drug and alcohol misuse since the Government transferred responsibility from the NHS in April 2013

As the public health service was transferred, Chancellor George Osbourne, with a sleight of hand cut £200 million in year from the public health budgets of local councils in June 2015. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said: “This cut will have a direct impact on people and communities who rely on this funding, and it will have a direct impact on the NHS which will have to pick up the pieces by treating preventable ill health. The Faculty of Public Health’s own analysis suggests the eventual ‘knock-on’ cost to the NHS could well be in excess of £1bn. By any measure then, the planned move is a false economy.”

At the time in Lewisham, Councillor Alan Hall wrote in response to the Government: “Plans to reduce public health allocations in year directly contradicts the statement in the NHS plan: ‘the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health.’

He added: “Imposing public health savings of this order within year will undermine our effectiveness and reduce our capacity to work with our NHS partners in prevention and public health and so will damage the long-term partnership needed to achieve public health goals.”

On top of this, many of the services delivered through the public health spend via Local Authorities fund clinical NHS care. Cutting this funding reduces NHS revenues so it is misleading to suggest that the NHS budget is being protected.

The tories continued to cut public health budgets but this March, in the midsts of the Covid-19 pandemic they belatedly announced an increase of £145 million on the public health grant 2019/20.

The Faculty of Public Health said: “Though an increase, further funding will be needed to reverse years of cuts to public health services and FPH has long called for a £1 billion increase for the public health budget. This will allow our members to restore public health services and protect and improve the health of the public, both during and beyond the current COVID-19 crisis.”

Lewisham Council’s public health service continues to provide a vital service. Their plans have defined “an outbreak” as is two or more suspected and/or confirmed cases associated with the same setting and with onset during a 14-day period.

A London-wide definition of a community cluster of COVID-19 is in the process of being
agreed. The following working definition has been adopted locally in Lewisham, in the interim:
“A community cluster is identified when 3 or more household member(s), living in the same
Middle Layer Super Output Area receive a positive test result for COVID-19 within a 7 day period and those people are not already known to be linked to a complex setting that is already the subject of an outbreak management plan (e.g. a care home, school, workplace etc).”

An outbreak in a complex setting can be regarded as taking place in a setting that has a number of complicating factors including:

  • vulnerable staff/residents/communities affected
  • the potential to result in a large number of cases/contacts
  • likelihood of requiring prolonged support for ongoing outbreak management.
    A number of action cards including standard operating procedures have been developed for
    outbreak management in complex settings for London.

Lewisham Public Health team will be part of the NHS Test and Trace service. This will provide a vital infrastructure to support this existing outbreak prevention work by scaling up the capacity to test, trace and isolate cases and contacts of COVID-19. The service was launched on 28th May 2020, to provide a comprehensive national contact tracing service for COVID-19 in England involving national, regional and local partners.

The team have launched a 7 day COVID-19 case rate for Lewisham in comparison to London and England.

7 day COVID-19 case rate (per 100,000) 
Reported from 8-14 August

The numbers showing today – 21st August 2020

Full details are here

Thanks And Thoughts On NHS Birthday – Pay Careworkers the Living Wage

Campaigners and Lewisham residents offer thoughts and thanks to the NHS.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign has launched a new video on the 72nd Birthday for the NHS on Sunday, 5th July 2020. The Campaign say: “In the middle of a global pandemic, with 65,000 deaths in the UK, some thanks and thoughts on the NHS 72nd birthday.” The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir provide the atmospheric backing track ‘And so it goes’ from their album Something Inside So Strong.

On this day, The Observer reports that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rushi Sunak refuses a £10 billion cash injection as Ministers have been warned that a second surge of Covid 19 infections let alone the now usual ‘winter pressures’ will leave the NHS “crippled” and “perilously unprepared”.

The Government promised that the NHS would receive “whatever it needs” and NHS bosses claim that this pledge is to be broken now.

Further claims that the Government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS will inevitably lead on to the fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS have been made.

Interestingly, in the video a resident reflects by saying:

“Stop using Covid as a cover to push through a restructuring of the NHS without public consultation.”

Periodically, when cash has been tight in the NHS proposals surface to downgrade Lewisham Hospital’s A&E Department.

Brian Fisher, a retired Lewisham GP, in the video says: “We continue to defend you [NHS] and fight for publicly funded social care.”

In that spirit, Cllr Alan Hall has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak supporting Citizen’s UK asking for social care workers to be paid the London Living Wage locally.

Time to pay care workers a London Living Wage

Citizen’s UK say: “Careworkers have been on the frontline of the UK’s fight against COVID-19, but a Real Living Wage would put them at the heart of our economic recovery too. Increasing pay to £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) would enable a million low-paid workers to start spending in local businesses and communities up and down the country.”

The text of the letter is below.

Dear Chancellor Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP,

On the 72nd NHS Birthday, I am writing to you as a constituent to ask for your support for Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which aims to ensure careworkers are paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

Those in the social care sector are at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 and I know in our community so many care recipients and their families value their vital work.

We have all been ‘clapping for carers’ on Thursday evenings in recognition of the danger they face, and yet they are often paid the minimum wage (also known as the National Living Wage) of £8.72 an hour.

Citizens UK is calling for the UK government to invest the £1.4 billion that the Resolution Foundation estimates it would cost for every care sector worker, who delivers publicly–funded care, to be paid the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour. This would allow careworkers to live with greater dignity and to escape from poverty pay.

We know that the public, commissioners of social care such as local authorities, employers of care workers, and recipients of care would all like care workers to be paid the real Living Wage, but to do that we need additional investment from the UK Government.

I really hope we can also count on your support for our campaign. Please let me know whether or not we can add your name to Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter, which you can find below.

Citizens UK’s Living Wage for Careworkers Charter:

We all rely on the one million careworkers on the frontline of the UK’s fight against the pandemic. Careworkers have worked tirelessly throughout Covid-19 to look after the most vulnerable in our society – and have found themselves at risk, often without adequate PPE, and without the esteem afforded to NHS workers.

Over half of frontline careworkers earn below the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London) and are struggling to keep their heads above water.

As careworkers, care recipients, care commissioners, council leaders, politicians and community leaders, we all agree that no careworker deserves poverty pay. We have applauded careworkers on Thursday evenings – now is the time to match our applause with a guarantee that they will earn enough to live a decent life.

We call on the UK Government to provide the £1.4 billion in additional funding so that every care sector worker that delivers publicly funded care can be paid at least the voluntary Living Wage of £9.30 an hour (£10.75 in London).

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

‘You’re Not Alone’ with the Lewisham NHS Choir

Ministry of Sound Classical presents ‘You’re Not Alone’ feat. Alexandra Burke, London Concert Orchestra & The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

A new video collaboration with the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir featuring Alexandra Burke and the London Concert Orchestra has just been released.

This is a cover of the 1997 No 1 chart hit classic ‘You’re Not Alone’ originally performed by the trio Olive which won an Ivor Novello Award in the ‘Best Dance Music’ category. The song has been covered by a number of artists including the Hungarian DJ Duo SaberZ in 2020.

The 50 piece classical orchestral backing with the choir make this recording full of emotion and a real tear jerker.

The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir said:

“The last few months have been a very difficult time for everyone, we’ve all been affected in different ways. So many people will be struggling, for some it will be obvious but for others the struggles will be hidden. This song is a reminder that we are all there when people need us.We’re hoping the recording will reach out to many who may feel isolated and bring a sense of community spirit. Music also brings joy and the chance to focus on other things, evoking happy memories and hopes for the future.”

“We’ve had limited time to rehearse at the moment and we are missing singing together so this was a great opportunity to be involved in this project. The prospect of singing with an orchestra is very exciting and definitely a new opportunity for us. We feel very privileged to be asked to participate in such a fantastic project”

A performance of the track was due to take place at the Royal Albert Hall this month but was cancelled due Covid-19 restrictions. All the performers, collectively decided to create a video to show appreciation and say a big “thank you” to key workers including our NHS.

The Ministry of Sound Classical has said that they are overjoyed for the video to include the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, having been invited to perform on the track by Alexandra Burke.

Dr. Kate McCarthy who sings in the NHS Choir said: “It’s been good to immerse ourselves in something so different” to our day to day work and that this has provided “a good mental release.”

The NHS Choir revealed that they had all recorded remotely using phones in their own time.

“We started virtual rehearsals to keep in touch and keep on track with learning new pieces. It’s also been a morale boost seeing each other online weekly.”

“We’ve had to quickly learn how to record ourselves and get used to hearing our voices individually, rather than as a choir. It’s difficult recording on your own, not knowing how it will sound until it’s all mixed together. It’s difficult not having the spontaneity in the immediate effect of many voices together in one room but it’s always exciting to hear the final result.” – Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

Asked what their message to the public would be, the NHS Choir says:

“We’re so grateful for the continued support and recognition from the public towards the NHS and keyworkers. We’re thankful for people following guidelines stay safe and also to look out for others.We hope we are able to remind people that the NHS is always there for people, whatever they need and there are many, many dedicated people ready to support when it’s needed most.”

“By working together as one our voices are louder and more effective.”

“All keyworkers including the NHS are heroes. They have raised our spirits and the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir sing out for us all.” – Cllr Alan Hall

More on the choir’s history is in an earlier post here

Lewisham NHS Choir hit the charts with Dan Healy charity single

#TheForgottenOnes #NHSHeroes #ClapForCarers
Dan Healy – The Forgotten Ones (feat. Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir) OFFICIAL VIDEO

Scottish singer-songwriter Dan Healy and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir have released a charity single dedicated to key workers, with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together’s COVID-19 Urgent Appeal, the ballad and accompanying music video take the perspective of the citizens obeying the government’s stay-at-home mandate, while expressing appreciation for NHS healthcare professionals and key workers. The music video features footage and messages of celebration and thanks to healthcare workers, posties, rail workers & refuse workers to name a few.

The track features the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir, which is comprised of NHS healthcare professionals. In addition to releasing singles including a Christmas No1, and full-length studio albums, the Choir has performed on television as well as major events and venues including Glastonbury Festival, The FA Cup Final, Royal Albert Hall and more.

“When Dan contacted us via NHS Charities Together we wanted to support the project. It’s an original song, thanking NHS staff and keyworkers. All the choir are incredibly busy at work, but we have found the choir to be a source of moral support in this time, and some of us were able to send voice recordings using our phones. We think it important to say thank you to all keyworkers as we’re all a team, working through this together.” – Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir crowned Christmas No 1 in 2015

Dan Healy is a Scottish singer-songwriter, actor and rhythm guitarist. A regular writing partner of Ronan Keating and session player for many other artists, he is also a songwriter for Concord Publishing, where he works with artists from London, Nashville and Los Angeles. As an actor, Dan has performed at London’s West End, Toronto and Los Angeles. Most recently, Dan appeared as the lead in “Once The Musical” during the show’s widely celebrated first UK tour.

Performed and recorded remotely, Dan and the NHS Choir are joined by international session musicians who have performed countless shows and studio recordings with the likes of Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, Sinead O’Connor, Robbie Williams, Ronan Keating, Kylie Minogue, Boyzone, Tom Jones and more. Also appearing on the track are internationally acclaimed Irish rock violinist group Sephira, sisters Joyce and Ruth O’Leary, who have performed with global sensations including but not limited to Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West, and Enya.

“Thank you to everyone in involved in the process of making this production. Thank you to those who took time out of their lives to send in videos, with smiles and creativity in the midst of a pandemic. Thank you to those people on the front line risking their health so that we can stand, for a moment, in shade of normality. Keep beating the drum, for the forgotten ones”. – Dan Healy

To Download the song click here

“When we heard ‘The Forgotten Ones’, it encapsulated exactly the gratitude we are feeling towards NHS staff and volunteers. Nothing about the choices staff and volunteers have made in their lives has changed–it’s just that their courage and willingness to risk themselves to keep us safe has suddenly been thrown into stark relief. You can say thank you by downloading this track as it will generate proceeds that NHS charities will use to support staff and volunteers dealing with COVID head on,” said Ellie Orton, CEO of NHS Charities Together.

“The Forgotten Ones” track and music video are now available for download on the iTunes Store, Amazon Music and Google Play. Proceeds from the downloads of the track and all donations will go to NHS Charities Together to support NHS workers and their families during these difficult times. To donate please click here

After the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir achieved a Christmas No1 in 2015 with their smash hit ‘A Bridge Over You’ with Justin Bieber’s support, Cllr Alan Hall put forward a motion to Lewisham Council to recognise this national achievement and called for a performance at the town hall. The choir did perform at the Council’s AGM around Easter, superbly. At that time the choir said:

“We do this job because we love it and are committed to looking after our patients. We think this song sums up that sentiment and is a way of celebrating the thousands of dedicated staff across the country.”

No1 Chart toppers – the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

“Lewisham Council congratulates the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir on
their Christmas number one charity single ‘A Bridge Over You’ and
commends the choir organisers for the positive effect their musical
endeavours have had in terms of raising the profile of the NHS as a whole,
boosting morale and raising funds for charity.
To ensure that the choir’s victory continues to flourish in the collective
memory of Lewisham
and the NHS, and ensure that the national support for our health services shown by the public who supported the choir remains current and prominent, council calls upon the Mayor of Lewisham to undertake the following:
• Write to the choir expressing the council’s thanks for their hard work and
congratulations on their success, both in the recording studio and on the
• Invite the choir to perform at the Council AGM.
• Follow the example of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Chief Executive Tim
Higginson in thanking singer Justin Bieber for his support for the choir’s
efforts, after his asking fans to buy ‘A Bridge Over You’ gave a major boost to the choir’s quest for the festive top spot and extend a warm welcome to Mr Bieber if he wishes to perform at the council AGM.”

Let’s hope that this new single does equally well, topping the UK charts.

Releasing a charity single at this time of international public health concern over a pandemic is in the true spirit of the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir.

The choir were at the forefront of the campaign to Save Lewisham Hospital and with that success have gone on from strength to strength.

Thank you to all the NHS and keyworkers and as the song goes, ‘thankyou so much we mean it from the bottom of our hearts.’

Please download the new charity single here

Read the story in the newsshopper

Highest covid death rates – Lewisham in top ten

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that London Boroughs have the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the country.

London has the highest COVID-19 deaths

The ONS have produced an interactive map. This shows age-standardised mortality rates for all causes and deaths involving COVID-19 in local authorities in England and Wales, deaths occurring between 1 March and 17 April 2020.

Standard Mortality Rates are used to make ‘like for like’ fair comparisons between boroughs, regardless of the actual age of their residents. This method is recognised by the World Health Organisation. It is measured as a ratio – per 100,000 of the population. Full details are here

Ranking the London Boroughs by Standard Mortality Rates (SMR) produces this table of the ten highest COVID-19 deaths in the country:

Tower Hamlets123

The ONS reports that overall, London had 85.7 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population, almost double the rate of the next worst-affected region which is the West Midlands at 43.2 deaths per 100,000.

Nick Stripe, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: “By mid-April, the region with the highest proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 was London, with the virus being involved in more than 4 in 10 deaths since the start of March.”

Back in 2015, Cllr Alan Hall described the cuts to public health as a “a cruel con-trick that will backfire on all of society – This damages not only the poorest communities but it damages all of us that use the NHS – it’s cutting to the bone.”

A casual glance at the table shows that the most diverse boroughs are generally higher up the table.

As The Guardian reported that the NHS looks to take BAME staff off the frontline for their safety revealing that one in five of NHS staff in England are from a BAME background, as are about half of all doctors in London. Surely, social care workers and other Council staff should be risk assessed as well?

Cllr Alan Hall asks the question – should Councils do the same?

In Lewisham, the lack of PPE has been raised. Cllr Alan Hall wrote to the local Director of Public Health to ask about the supply to social care workers.

A dispute erupted between a private contractor and hospital cleaners at Lewisham Hospital. It should be remembered that cleaners and porters are part of the infection control regime in an acute hospital. The Government issued a Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections and related guidance which states that “infection prevention” should be interpreted as including cleanliness.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign are making six demands to the Government and collecting signatures for a petition, to ‘turn claps into action’ see:

Sign the petition supported by the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign here:

International Workers’ Memorial Day – Lewisham

On 28th April, all around the world the trade union movement comes together and marks International Workers’ Memorial Day.

This is the time to remember those who have lost their lives at work, or from work-related injury and diseases. To renew our efforts to ‘fight for the living’ and demand safer working conditions.

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. We remember those we have lost and we organise in their memory.

This year, the theme is the Coronavirus. There is a pandemic and the Trade Union Congress has said that tens of thousands of workers worldwide have died. More have fallen ill or continue to go to work risking their lives. Many workers are still attending work ill-equipped and without necessary safety measures in place.

We could not have a starker reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety reps in saving and protecting workers’ lives, than the current crisis we are living through.

In Lewisham, we are no exception. The Lewisham Trades Council – the local TUC – has held a socially distanced show of support for all those affected.

Firefighters showed their respect outside fire stations.

The London Ambulance Service observed the 11am mark of respect at their HQ and across the capital.

Bus workers from New Cross Bus Garage released a short film. The film which starts with a poem by Carolyn Pelling, a New Cross Bus Driver.

I wake to my alarm to start a new day
I shower and dress and set out on my way
I make a coffee and fill my flask
Then leave the house not forgetting my mask
I arrive at work my day is the same
Driving a bus via a London bus lane
Keyworkers to work , they rely on us
So that’s why we drive our red London bus
Drivers have died due to Covid 19
A space on the rota where once they have been
So on this day at 11 a.m. We fall silent and remember them
The drivers of New Cross Bus Garage pay tribute to and celebrate all the extraordinary dedicated workers.

Credits: Camera: Damian Daniel Edit: Matt Robinson Cat & Owl Films www.catandowlfilms.co.uk Narration: Alexa Bauer Music: Candy by Cameo

As the Lewisham Trades Council assembled outside Lewisham Hospital, a cleaner from the same Trust was in a disciplinary hearing with their GMB union representative, Helen O’Connor over a lack of PPE.

The cleaner who works near the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth’s hospital, in Woolwich told The London Economic he wasn’t entitled to wear a face mask, despite “people walking in and out coughing and sneezing” near him. The 57-year-old said he requested a mask as he lives with his brother who is self-isolating as he has two serious lung conditions.

The President of the GMB and Lewisham resident, Barbara Plant issued a statement saying: “Tuesday 28th April is International Workers Memorial Day, when every year members of trade unions all around the world organise events to remember those who have lost their lives, whether it be gathering for speeches, lighting candles, planting memorial trees or taking part in a minutes’ silence.

This gives us the opportunity to reflect on the many people who are killed, seriously injured or made ill while simply doing their jobs.

Sadly this year many of our colleagues, friends and family have become ill or tragically died from Covid-19 as they bravely kept going to work during the pandemic to ensure we have food and essential deliveries, we’re cared for, our children are educated and people who need to get to and from work can do during this time.”

We will remember the dead and fight for the living.

International Workers’ Memorial Day at Lewisham Hospital

Protect all frontline healthcare workers

Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE is in demand. There are reports that there is a shortage in hospitals and care facilities.

The Daily Mirror reports that hospitals listed as having shortages include Rotherham General Hospital, Bristol Children’s Hospital, Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and at St Thomas, Lewisham and two other unnamed hospitals in London.

The view from the NHS frontline is explained here:

Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, an intensive care doctor and president of the Doctors’ Association UK, told Nick Ferrari that more doctors will die unless they get proper equipment.

In a further twist, healthcare workers who raise their concerns are facing being “gagged”. Helen O’Connor, GMB says in The Guardian “It is scandalous that hospital staff speaking out publicly face being sacked by ruthless NHS bosses who do not want failings in their leadership to be exposed. Suppression of information is not just a matter of democracy, it is now a major public health issue.”

The Local Government Association has sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP. It says that there is an urgent need for Government to move faster in making PPE available for the adult social care sector. Sufficient supplies that are of acceptable quality are needed immediately. Councils and their provider partners also need concrete assurances about ongoing supplies for the days and weeks ahead.

Councillor Alan Hall has written to the Director of Public Health for Lewisham seeking reassurances for both hospital and social care staff locally. The full letter is below:

Catherine Mbema
Director of Public Health – Lewisham

Dear Catherine,

I have been informed that the lack of Personal Protective Equipment for cleaning staff at Lewisham Hospital is a real concern. Trade Unions say that there is a shortage of supply and that staff are very worried. It has been described as “a total nightmare”.

As the Public Health Lead across Lewisham, I would be very grateful if you could raise the shortage of supply with the NHS and the Hospital and reassure us that PPE will be available.

Whilst I write, personal carers have reported shortages and inadequacies nationally. Can an assurance that all Lewisham Council and NHS staff have been provided with effective PPE?

May I take this opportunity to thank you and your team for all the incredible work that has been placed upon you. I have always campaigned against Public Health cuts and the short sightedness of this is surely been borne out now.

Kind regards,


Cllr Alan Hall

In an article on the United Nation’s website, there is a chilling message:

“COVID-19 will not be the last dangerous microbe we see. The heroism, dedication and selflessness of medical staff allow the rest of us a degree of reassurance that we will overcome this virus.

We must give these health workers all the support they need to do their jobs, be safe and stay alive. We will need them when the next pandemic strikes.”

A version of this blog appears on the Socialist Health Association website

Lewisham Hospital cleaners still not paid in full despite coronavirus fears

The GMB Organiser Helen O’Connor

Lewisham Hospital’s cleaners walked out on Thursday, 12th March after an outsourced cleaning contractor repeatedly failed to pay them. A week later, the GMB Trade Union reported that the cleaners still haven’t been paid and the private company ISS blames administrative errors for the crisis.

Helen O’Connor the GMB officer said: “For many of these workers missing just one pay cheque means not being able to pay the rent, or put food on their families’ tables.

“They are at the end of their tether following weeks of their pay being short – now today they get no pay at all.

“This could not have happened at a worse time – we are facing a coronavirus pandemic and infected patients are now being admitted into the hospital.

“Meanwhile the people who are meant to be keeping the hospital clean and safe are not getting paid. Once again the dangers of outsourcing in the NHS are laid bare.”

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign

Community campaigners from Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign joined the cleaners protesting outside Lewisham Hospital on Friday, 13th March. Their spokesperson, Olivia O’Sullivan said: “We are here today to bring solidarity from our campaign and the Lewisham community.” She went on to say: “It’s a disgrace what’s happening to you….We would rather they brought the service back into the NHS.”

Keep Our NHS Public say: “Private company ISS leaves staff with no money for food, no payments, delayed payments, under payments and crucially no protective clothing as first case of Covid-19 confirmed at Lewisham Hospital. Cleaning, portering and catering staff at Lewisham Hospital have walked out after private contractor ISS failed to pay the wages of the hospital workers.

Furious workers stormed off the job during a row with the outsourcing company. Now ISS risks leaving wards uncleaned and meals not being served if they can’t settle the low paid workers’ wages.”

The dispute raged onto the following week despite contractor, ISS issuing a statement saying that they were extremely sorry that this happened and are reaching out to those staff to apologise in person, and to quickly sort out any pay issues they have.

On Tuesday, 23rd March, the GMB’s Helen O’Connor confirmed that monies were still owed and payday for the low paid cleaners is on Thurdsay, 25th March.

The treatment of the cleaners has led to hundreds of residents signing a letter condemning the “callousness” of ISS and demanded that the company provide financial compensation for all workers affected by the “extreme negligence that led to this staff walk-out.”

They say that ISS should revise its sick pay policy to guarantee that all outsourced staff – in the event of a suspected case of Covid-19 – are guaranteed no loss of pay, no detriment to their sickness and absence record and no loss of annual leave entitlement and that all branches of ISS operating in the Lewisham provide a transparent account of the appropriate health and safety measures they have put in place for all its staff.

The full text of the letter is here

“The hard working cleaners are part of an effective infection control regime, preventing MRSA and the like. To penny pinch now when the country is in the midsts of a pandemic is a scandal – they should be directly employed by the hospital and paid properly – that’s why I signed.” – Cllr Alan Hall

Jeremy Corbyn pays tribute to cleaners at his final Prime Minister’s Question Time
The health campaigner John Lister gives his verdict

In his final Prime Minister’s Question Time as Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn took the opportunity to thank frontline workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He paid a moving tribute to cleaners saying:

“I wish to give a special mention to one group who are usually ignored, forgotten and decried as ‘unskilled workers:’ cleaners.

“All around the country — and in this building — they are doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe.”

John Lister is a founding Member and former Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public and a Co-Founder of the Health Campaigns Together initiative.

John has written extensively on the history of the NHS including an award-winning book in 2008 and in 2015 he also collaborated with Jackie Davis and David Wrigley to update the analysis in NHS for Sale. He says: ” People who were shocked when staff took strike action should be more shocked now by the shameful attitude of private contractors.”

The GMB reported that the cleaners were not paid on Thursday, 26th March. Helen O’Connor said: “Lewisham cleaners pay still not sorted —some are not returning to work for ISS anymore. This will get worse.”

Read the article in the Newsshopper