LEWISHAM Hospital campaigners are celebrating after the High Court quashed Jeremy Hunt’s decision to substantially cut services and close departments, saying he had been acting outside his powers.
In today’s judgement (July 31) Mr Justice Silber said the Secretary of State for Health was in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced to Parliament that services at Lewisham Hospital would be downgraded and closed.
Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign successfully argued that the minister and Trust Special Administrator had no powers to downgrade the hospital's A&E and maternity units after the financial collapse of the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust.
But amid the jubilant scenes at the High Court today - including a round of applause for Judge Silber on delivering his ruling - there was a warning that the government has asked for leave to appeal against the decision.
Save Lewisham Hospital campaign chairwoman and local GP Dr Louise Irvine said afterwards: "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."
Despite being appointed TSA for the South London Healthcare Trust, in his final report to the Secretary of State in January 2013, Mr Kershaw not only proposed changes to South London Healthcare Trust but also to Lewisham Healthcare Trust, in particular to Lewisham Hospital which it runs.
Mr Kershaw proposed the hospital should close and downgrade some of its services, including its A&E department, acute admitting wards and adult intensive care unit.
He also suggested the maternity service at the hospital should be downgraded or closed completely.
These recommendations were made despite widespread agreement that Lewisham Hospital was a high achieving and popular hospital not in financial difficulty.
And on January 31 the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced to parliament he accepted the TSA’s recommendations about South London Healthcare Trust including the recommendation to reconfigure NHS services ‘beyond the confines of [SLHT], across all of South East London [including Lewisham].’
But today, Judge Silber ruled the TSA and Health Secretary did not have the power to make recommendations and decisions about Lewisham Hospital, that the area's GPs had not supported the move and no regard was made to obtaining their support, and that the Health Secretary could not claim he would have reached the same decision using alternative powers.
People will be gathering outside the hospital from 5pm today to celebrate the victory.
The full judgement is now available online.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock
"Justice has been delivered. I am delighted for the thousands of people in Lewisham who fought so hard to have their voices heard and applaud all those who dared to hope and believe that together we could make a difference. This is a real victory for Lewisham residents, for Londoners and everyone who remains committed to our National Health Service.
'Lewisham Hospital is well-managed, highly-respected and financially solvent. The Special Administrator should never have been allowed to make recommendations outside his remit, the Secretary of State should never have adopted his recommendations and this case should never have had to come to the High Court."
Dr Louise Irvine
"We know that the battle isn't over yet and we're going to keep up our campaign.Obviously, that doesn't stop us celebrating today.
"When we first started, we were 12 people in a room thinking 'what can we do' and feeling hopeless.
"But this was so just and so right. that's why it resonated with people."
"We reached every corner, nook and cranny of the community. This is true democracy."
Tony O'Sullivan, Director of Children’s Services at Lewisham Healthcare Trust
"We dared to hope, because, first of all, the decision to downgrade such a good hospital was clearly perverse by most people's standards.
"We had a wonderful campaign with wide support from the community, clinicians, GPs and the local media.
"Hearing the arguments in court the Judicial Review, there was no argument against the case from us that they were acting unlawfully."
Campaigner Jos Bell
"The judge quashed every one of the governments points. There was nothing that they've said that he supported. So today is Quash Day.
"We always felt that we had right and justice on our side and now that's proved the case."
Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander
"This is a very, very significant victory for the people of Lewisham and it's a victory for campaigners across the country who want to protect and enhance our NHS."
"I knew that the judicial review action that was brought by Lewisham Council had very strong grounds.
"It's all credit to the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and Lewisham Council for persuing it through the courts.
"It brought the community together in a way that I could never have imagined. On a personal level I feel proud and very honoured to have played a small part in it."
Lib Dem Councillor Duwayne Brooks
"It's a wonderful victory for the residents of Lewisham today. When these recommendations were first published everybody in Lewisham knew that the recommendation to downgrade Lewisham Hospital was the wrong one.
"Today is a victory for us all, especially the residents - from young right up to the elderly - who require the services of Lewisham Hospital on a daily and weekly basis."
Lewisham Council chief executive Barry Quirk
"Lewisham Council is absolutely delighted with today's announcement.
"The judgement makes it clear to everyone that the Secretary of State acted unlawfully."
Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock
“The High Court has upheld every argument we made against the use of Trust Special Administrator powers to ruin a successful, popular hospital which meets all its clinical standards.
“The Government’s strategy for the NHS in Lewisham has been crushed by this verdict and we will fight to ensure they don’t come back with similar proposals.
“This is the greatest victory for a local community campaign I have seen in my political life.”
Leader of Lewisham Lib Dems Councillor Chris Maines
"This is a tremendous victory for the people of Lewisham who have been united in their energic fight for the local hospital.
"Whilst it is marvellous news, the evil PFI debt still threatens local hospital services. I urge the Government not to appeal the decision but to sit down with PFI providers for South London and renegotiate this huge debt affecting Bromley and Greenwich hospitals and allow Lewisham Hospital to continue to provide its excellent service to local residents."
Executive Director of 38 Degrees David Babbs
"It's not everyday that ordinary people take a Government to court and win.
"Thousands of 38 Degrees members donated to make this possible - it proves just how determined we all are to protect our NHS from Jeremy Hunt."
Statement from Office of the Trust Special Administrator
"We understand that the Department of Health is considering the decision carefully over the coming days, but has already been granted permission to appeal against the judgment today.
"It is important to emphasise that this decision relates only to the service changes at Lewisham hospital proposed by the TSA report and the organisational change (the merger) between Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust and Queen Elizabeth Hospital was not part of the Judicial Review. The merger is on target to be completed by 1 October 2013.
"As the merger will not change where services are provided it continues to be "business as usual" for patients, staff and services at Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth hospitals. Our top priority remains to continue to provide safe, effective and high quality care for patients."
Paul Rooney, Bromley TUC
"Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt's and local Tory MPs' and councillors' uncritical acceptance of Kershaw's £6m bogus report mean that all their positions are untenable.
"Any appeal and further wasting of taxpayers money must be resisted as it will only cause further unneccesary uncertainty and delay over the provision of local services.
"Hunt must resign today.
"Also, the judgement means that the TSAs proposals for SLHT are untenable as well.
"Bromley TUC demand that the government pays off the SLHT PFI debts and allow local managers and health care professionals get back to providing local people with the health care services they need and deserve.'
Royal College of Nursing London Regional Director Bernell Bussue
“The High Court’s decision to save Lewisham A&E is welcome news for patients in South East London. This is a popular local unit and there has been a passionate campaign by local residents.
“There has never been a clinical justification for shutting Lewisham’s A&E. This ruling sets a precedent that successful hospitals cannot be pulled under by the financial failings of their neighbours.”