Lewisham hospital cuts plan ignored GPs, says High Court judge

GP commissioners' opposition to downgrading Lewisham hospital was one of the reasons the government's plan was quashed, the High Court judge who gave the ruling has revealed.

Campaigning GP Dr Louise Irvine said she was 'elated' at the ruling (Photo: Simon Way)
Campaigning GP Dr Louise Irvine said she was 'elated' at the ruling (Photo: Simon Way)

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

This was the first time that the Unsustainable Providers Regime, a statutory process to deal with failing NHS organisations, had been used.

It was undertaken to address financial problems at South London Healthcare Trust, of which Lewisham Hospital is not a part, nor is it a failing trust, the judge said.

In a media briefing paper, 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"'.

Local GP Dr Louise Irvine, chairwoman of the community campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital, which launched the High Court challenge, said she was 'elated' at the ruling.

‘There was a feeling of justice being done that the cuts were totally unjust,' she said. ‘It was great. They were lots of supporters. It was elation.

‘Any reconfiguration has to have the support of the local CCG – that was decisive. It was really important that that point was established.’

The BMA has called for a review into Mr Hunt’s actions. BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘It is vital that changes to services have the confidence of the local community and the NHS staff who work there.

‘There must be an urgent review into the events that led to this situation to ensure that lessons are learned for the future.’

A spokesman for the DH confirmed it will be appealing the decision.

* High Court decision on Lewisham Hospital is endorsement of commissioning

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