A nurse who left her job to campaign against NHS cuts has won a legal battle over the closure of two wards at the first health service hospital.

Pat Morris, who resigned in 2003 to set up the lobby group Health in Trafford, risked financial ruin in bringing judicial review proceedings over her local NHS trust's decision to shut the wards at Altrincham General Hospital, near Manchester, which was opened in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the health service.

A High Court judge ruled yesterday that Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust had acted unlawfully in imposing the cuts because the public had not been properly consulted. Mr Justice Hodge ordered the trust to review the decision, but refused to direct that the wards be reopened. The ruling means managers may now conduct a public consultation and still reach the same decision.

Mrs Morris, 65, remained cynical about the prospect of overturning the decision as she left court. She said: "There are no winners today - only losers. They will just go through the motions."

She was awarded costs against the trust, although they amounted to little more than £1,000 because her barrister had acted on a pro bono basis.

In March this year, the trust decided to close the 26 beds in two wards treating elderly patients. Managers said the wards were a fire risk and a shortage of doctors, coupled with increasingly frail patients, meant they must close on safety grounds.

But there was no public consultation before the wards were closed and Mrs Morris claimed that the decision had been taken to cut a £9m deficit.