Lewisham hospital: Hunt wins this battle but protesters will win the war
Children labelled "I'm a Lewisham baby" joined parents, GPs, hospital doctors, and even Archbishop Desmond Tutu to protest against the plans to close Lewisham's maternity and accident and emergency departments. Cars passing by – even one van from a private healthcare group – sounded their horns in support. When we stopped at a local bakery to keep the five-year-old going, the cafe owner gave us free tea.
Yes, there was an online petition (signed by 34,265) and more than 5,000 "likes" on Facebook as well as a @SAVELewishamNHS Twitter feed, but the weekend march harked back to the 1980s and the poll tax protests more than anything else. Yes, it was local – people marching because of support for a local institution where 4,000 babies are born each year and 120,000 emergencies dealt with – but protesters were also acting from a real sense of unfairness.
At the heart of this dispute lay the sense that Lewisham hospital's future was being jeopardised (few NHS hospitals can survive without a functioning A&E) because of the financial failures of a neighbouring trust rather than its own mistakes. What's more, some of London's poorest residents were being made to pay for the injustice.
Many wanted to save what they think of as the heart of the NHS – a service not a business for all. As Louise Irvine, of www.savelewishamhospital.com, said: "Lewisham is a test case and therefore something that people throughout the country need to be aware of." No one feels that this is going to be the last protest about cuts.
Save Lewisham Hospital, a campaign group largely staffed by volunteers, is right to point out that Jeremy Hunt's announcement does not mean the hospital is "saved". Too many questions remain.
If Lewisham is to stop treating the most "serious" emergencies, how and when will this be defined? If those helping the afflicted fear they won't get the right help at Lewisham, won't they try to go further down the road to the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich or St Thomas'? (Mr Hunt has obviously never made the trip from Greenwich to Waterloo in the rush hour if he thinks this journey takes an extra minute or two).
The closure of the maternity unit for a "midwife-led" one without specialist equipment or consultants is also a blow. With more than a third of labouring mothers transferred to hospital for complications, that journey to a neighbouring hospital will be even more unbearable.
Not to mention the fact that most local parents know at least one woman sent away from jam-packed local wards.
Yet what seems to have been saved is a sense that protest is no longer pointless or even purely personal. "What's the point of going?" wailed my 11-year-old son as we dragged him away from a computer screen on Saturday. By the end, he and his young friends were chanting slogans and waving placards. It may be a partial victory, but it felt like a win to me.
Keep up to date on Hospital campaign as it happens. follow Ray on twitter@Raywoolford