Lewisham Hospital campaigners win High Court battle over A&E downgrade

Lewisham Hospital campaigners celebrate the High Court ruling to quash a government decision downgrading A&E and maternity services. Picture: Alain Tolhurst

Lewisham Hospital campaigners celebrate the High Court ruling to quash a government decision downgrading A&E and maternity services. Picture: Alain Tolhurst

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The High Court has quashed a decision by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to downgrade A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital.

Campaigners against the downgrade of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital gathered outside the High Court this morning to hear a decision on their judicial review. Picture: Alain TolhurstCampaigners against the downgrade of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital gathered outside the High Court this morning to hear a decision on their judicial review. Picture: Alain Tolhurst

At the start of July the High Court heard separate judicial reviews from campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital and Lewisham Council.

Today Mr Justice Silber announced that he had ruled in favour of the two groups.

Campaigners outside the court could be heard chanting “Whose NHS? Our NHS!” after the decision was announced.

Mr Justice Silber said Mr Hunt acted outside his powers when he announced to Parliament in January that casualty and maternity units at Lewisham Hospital would be downgraded.

He said the Secretary of State had breached provisions of the National Health Services Act 2006.

A three-day hearing at the beginning of the month heard lawyers arguing about the legality of including Lewisham Hospital in the plans to dissolve South London Healthcare Trust, which has been riddled with financial problems since its formation in 2009.

At the beginning of this year Mr Hunt had announced the downgrading of the services, although he stopped short of implementing original recommendations that the A&E department be scrapped entirely.

Mr Hunt also confirmed the proposals to dissolve financially stricken South London Heathcare NHS Trust, which runs Queen Mary’s in Sidcup, the Princess Royal in Bromley, and Queen Elizabeth in Greenwich. This was put on hold while the judicial reviews went through the court.

He said at the time he had taken the advice of Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, to consider if they would improve patient care.

Speaking to the House of Commons when announcing his decision in January, he said: “The longstanding problems at South London Healthcare NHS Trust must not be allowed to compromise patient care in the future.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on paying for debt rather than improving patient care for the local community in south east London.

“What is in the clinical interests of patients in south east London has been at the heart of my decision making process, and as a result I have followed clinical advice to keep open the A&E in Lewisham.

“However, some changes need to be made so that money is spent on patient care rather than servicing historic debt. The decisions I have taken today will ensure that and that patients in south east London will be able to rely on the NHS for years to come.”

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