The High Court has quashed the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital, after finding the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt MP, had acted unlawfully in deciding to cut services and close departments.
In today’s judgement, Mr Justice Silber said the Secretary of State’s decision must be overturned as he had acted outside his powers as Secretary of State and was in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006.
The Journal of Family Health Care has been both vocal and active in our opposition of the proposed closure and in our support of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Group. Rosa Curling, from law firm Leigh Day, who represented the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign group, said:
“When the Secretary of State appointed the Trust Special Administrator to investigate and develop recommendations on the future of South London Healthcare NHS Trust, he promised that there would be no “back-door approach to reconfiguration”; there would be no reconfiguration of neighbouring NHS services delivered by other NHS bodies beyond the South London Trust.
“He broke this promise – in fact, his decision regarding South London included a substantial reconfiguration of services delivered by other NHS bodies beyond South London and in particular in relation to Lewisham Hospital. The court has today agreed that the TSA and the Secretary of State has no legal power to do this and has emphatically made clear that this decision should be quashed.”
An incredible day
Dr Louise Irvine, local GP and Chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said that she had been overwhelmed by the support from people around the UK: “This is an incredible day.
"We are delighted for every single person who has supported the campaign and those who will now continue to benefit from this extraordinary hospital. The support from thousands of people in Lewisham is a very real demonstration of the Big Society.
"David Cameron himself said that there would be no ‘top-down’ approach to closures and we appreciate the Court’s decision which should serve as a reminder to this Government to not forget their promises and not to underestimate those who they seek to represent."
Increased pressure on neighbouring maternity units
The decision to close Lewisham Hospital was made despite it being regarded as high-achieving, popular and not in any financial difficulty.
The ruling has also been welcommed by the Royal College of Midwives, whose Chief Executive Cathy Warwick said: "The RCM has always been concerned that the proposed closure of the obstetric unit of Lewisham Hospital will increase pressure on neighbouring units, at a time when the demand for maternity services is increasing.
"We have already witnessed the temporary suspension of services at maternity units in the area on repeated occasions and the closure of the maternity unit at Lewisham would only compound this situation, as well as reducing choice and access of services for local women and their families. Our hope now is that, in the interests of women and families in Lewisham, the long term future of maternity services at Lewisham Hospital can be speedily resolved."