You can't slash A&E services at Lewisham hospital: Jeremy Hunt overruled by High Court

Judge rules that Jeremy Hunt acted outside his powers with announcement to MPs

Health Reporter

Plans to slash services at a successful London hospital have been declared unlawful, in a blow to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt, which could have major repercussions for future NHS hospital shake-ups.

In an unexpected triumph for local campaigners, a High Court judge ruled yesterday that cuts at Lewisham Hospital, approved by Mr Hunt earlier this year, should never have been recommended in the first place.

Lewisham Hospital was threatened when a neighbouring trust, South London Healthcare Trust, which was losing £1m a week, was placed in administration. As part of plans to reconfigure local services, the administrator said Lewisham Hospital should make cuts to its maternity and A&E services - despite the fact it operated as a separate trust and was performing well.

But Mr Justice Silber ruled yesterday ruled that the administrator had no powers to make decisions affecting Lewisham or any hospital outside SLHT, and Mr Hunt had breached the provisions of the National Health Services Act 2006 when he approved the plans.

The ruling has cast serious doubts over the powers of Trust Special Administrators (TSAs), who are brought in to manage failing NHS trusts. Last night the Department of Health was understood to be examining whether it could change legislation to expand their powers so that they could authorise broader service shake-ups beyond their trust.

Mr Hunt had told MPs the changes at Lewisham, part of wider shake-up of services in the capital, would improve patient care in south London, saving up to 100 lives a year,

But local campaigners, backed by Lewisham Council and local GPs, protested the move, arguing that Lewisham Hospital's successful services should not be shut down to solve problems at a neighbouring trust.

Campaigners claimed that the Government had used the TSA to reorganise local services "by the back door", without proper consultation. Mr Justice Silber also ruled that the TSA and the Government had failed in their duty to get the support of local GPs before any changes were recommended.

Lewisham's Labour MP, Joan Ruddock, told The Independent: "This is the most significant community based battle that has ever succeeded in my political life. To take on the government in the high court, to win, is exceptional. We had a demo which tuned out 25,000 people for a local cause."

"The government has been utterly arrogant in its approach. They have failed to listen, not just to local people, but to the clinicians, and the whole medical establishment in Lewisham," she said. "It was an attempt to use legislation to bring about change through the back door that could never have been justified. This was an accountant's solution. This government is far too focused on the accounts, rather than the public service. This was a proposal that had no common sense attached to it."

Doctors called for an urgent review into Mr Hunt's actions.

"It is deeply worrying in the case of Lewisham Hospital that the High Court has found that the health secretary breached his statutory powers when making the decision to downgrade the emergency care department and maternity units at the hospital," said Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council. "Doctors, healthcare staff and patients were concerned that the consultation period was too short and that local people needed more time to put their views across. It is vital that changes to services have the confidence of the local community and the NHS staff who work there."

A Department of Health spokesman said the government would appeal the decision.

"This judgment applies to one aspect of a package of changes which we believe are in the best long-term interests of patients and the public across south east London," the spokesman said. "As it stands, the South London Healthcare NHS Trust has been running at a loss of about £1m a week - money that has to be diverted from frontline patient care. We expect to continue other elements of that package of changes, including the dissolution of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, planned for October 1…

"Experience in south east London certainly suggests that it can be necessary for changes to be made at more than one Trust in order to find a sustainable service model.  That's why we are appealing the decision, and considering our further options carefully. It is certainly the case that one way to put the matter beyond doubt would be to amend the primary legislation governing the administration process."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
i100Most young people can't
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB Developer (VB, VB.Net, VB Developer, VB.Net Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: VB Developer (VB, VB.Net, VB Deve...

    Front-End Developer C#, MVC, HTML5, CSS3

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A firm focused in building Insura...

    C# Software Engineer (ASP.NET, C#, CSS, Java Script, JQuery)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits, Training & Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# S...

    C# Swift Developer (ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.NET, Swift)

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home