DH's Lewisham hospital decision appeal 'disrespects' local GPs

The government's last-ditch attempt to overturn a High Court ruling to save Lewisham hospital shows no respect for the wishes of local doctors and patients, a campaigning GP has warned.

Dr Irvine: 'We feel confident we have good arguments.'
Dr Irvine: 'We feel confident we have good arguments.'

The DH lodged an appeal on Wednesday of the judicial review ruling last month to quash health secretary’s Jeremy Hunt’s ‘unlawful’ decision to downgrade Lewisham hospital in south east London.

Local GP Dr Louise Irvine, chairwoman of the community campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital, which launched the High Court challenge together with Lewisham Council, said she is ‘hopeful’ the team have a good case.

Mr Justice Silber ruled on 31 July that Mr Hunt’s bid to downgrade Lewisham hospital must be ‘quashed’ as the health secretary had acted outside his powers and in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006.

GP commissioners' opposition to downgrading the hospital was one of the reasons the government's plan was quashed.

Dr Irvine said the appeal ‘prolongs the uncertainty for Lewisham hospital’.

She said: ‘If the government really believed that doctors and local people know best and should have a powerful say on healthcare in their area, then I think it should respect their very clearly expressed views, rather than further prolonging the agony of uncertainty.

‘We feel confident we have good arguments. It [the judicial review ruling] was based on the government being wrong to use the unsustainable provider legislation [to include Lewisham hospital] and that the local CCG was totally opposed to the plans.

‘I would urge the government to listen to what local clinicians want. They are doing exactly what the government wants them to do – having a say on local health services.’

In a media briefing paper explaining the judicial review ruling, the judge wrote: ‘It was quite clear that the Lewisham GP commissioners did not give support to the proposals; on the contrary, they strongly opposed them although those GP commissioners in a number of surrounding but different areas were happy with them.

'I considered that it was the absence of support from the local GP commissioners which constituted an additional reason why the decision of the secretary of state cannot stand.’

The judge said that Mr Hunt’s decision had to ‘have regard to or to ensure 'support from GP commissioners'.

A DH spokeswoman was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.

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