Hunt's Lewisham intervention was unlawful, High Court confirms

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt acted unlawfully in approving plans to downgrade Lewisham hospital earlier this year, a High Court appeal hearing has confirmed.

Jeremy Hunt: Lewisham decision quashed
Jeremy Hunt: Lewisham decision quashed

The DH launched an appeal after a judicial review ruling in July quashed the health secretary’s decision to downgrade the south east London hospital. But on Tuesday, a judge threw out the appeal.

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 justice had prevailed.

‘We feel elated, we feel justice has been done,’ she said. ‘This will let Lewisham hospital get on with being the good hospital that it is. This shows the power of community campaigning.’

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, along with the fact that proposals were put forward by a hospital administrator tasked with investigating neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust, not Lewisham Healthcare Trust.

DH-backed amendments to the Care Bill currently going through parliament could allow hospital administrators to recommend changes to services outside of the geographic area they are appointed to.

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.’

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