Jeremy Hunt lacked power to downgrade NHS services at Lewisham Hospital, Court of Appeal rules

Judges including the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, upheld a High Court ruling to 'quash' the Health Secretary's attempts to cut the A&E and maternity services at the south east London hospital

Health Reporter

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted outside his powers by ordering the closure of wards at Lewisham Hospital, a judge has ruled, as the Government lost its appeal over controversial changes to NHS services in south London.

Mr Hunt’s Department of Health had sought to appeal a high court judge ruling that downgrading services at Lewisham Hospital was unlawful, after local campaigners challenged the Government with a judicial review.

Campaigners branded the appeal “an expensive waste of time” after judges took just 10 minutes to reject it today.

Lewisham, a well-performing hospital, was targeted for cuts by a Trust Special Administrator (TSA) brought in to overhaul services at the neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which was losing more than £1m every week and has now been dissolved. 

But Mr Justice Silber ruled in July that the TSA did not have the power to recommend changes at a different NHS trust, and Mr Hunt did not have the power to approve them – a decision that the Court of Appeal has upheld.

Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford said that the ruling was a “humiliation” for the Health Secretary.

“He should have accepted the earlier decision and I cannot believe how he justified bringing this to the Appeals Court at such an expenditure of public money, at a time when the Government is urging everyone to tighten their belts. I think this was just bravado on his part,” she told The Independent.

The challenge against the Government was brought by Save Lewisham Hospital and the London Borough of Lewisham.

Rosa Curling, who represented the campaign group said: “This expensive waste of time for the Government should serve as a wake-up call that they cannot ride roughshod over the needs of the people.”

Mr Hunt said he had acted on the advice of doctors who said the proposals to reorganise services in south London, including downgrading Lewisham, “would save lives”.

The Government is now seeking to change the law surrounding the powers of TSAs, so that when an NHS trust is brought into a failure regime, the TSA and the Government can also change services at any hospital within the local healthcare economy.

The changes are contained in amendments to the Care Bill, which has its third reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday afternoon. Any change in the law could not be applied retrospectively to Lewisham, but the Department of Health has not ruled out reviving plans to reconfigure services in south London.

Ms Ruddock said: “If [the amendments] should go through then we will fight every move to try to return to the TSA’s proposals for Lewisham.”

Mr Hunt said:  “I completely understand why the residents of Lewisham did not want any change in their A&E services, but my job as Health Secretary is to protect patients across south London – and doctors said these proposals would save lives. We are now looking at the law to make sure that at a time of great challenge the NHS is able to change and innovate when local doctors believe it is in the interests of patients.”

The Labour peer and former health service manager Philip Hunt said that the amendments amounted to “a very dubious way” of reorganising NHS services, which would remove the requirement to consult the public or have the approval of local clinical commissioners. 

“I worry this procedure is going to be used frequently to get round the normal consultation processes,” he told The Independent. “My main concern is that this is going to be used as a shortcut to closure without full public involvement, which it seems to me is wrong and counter-productive.” 

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices