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Health campaigners delight over Lewisham Hospital decision - but still fear for future of south-east London healthcare

PUBLISHED: 15:32 31 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:13 01 August 2013

Lewisham Hospital campaigners celebrate the High Court ruling to quash a government decision downgrading A&E and maternity services. Picture: Alain Tolhurst

Lewisham Hospital campaigners celebrate the High Court ruling to quash a government decision downgrading A&E and maternity services. Picture: Alain Tolhurst

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Health campaigners have expressed their delight at the decision to downgrade Lewisham Hospital services has been quashed - but they are still concerned about the future of healthcare in south-east London.

John ListerJohn Lister

Judge Justice Silber announced at the High Court today he was quashing the dowmgrading of Lewisham’s A&E and maternity services following a three-day hearing at the start of this month when two judicial reviews, brought by campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital and Lewisham Council.

The case was based on not whether services should be downgraded at the hospital, but whether trust special administrator Matthew Kershaw, brought in to sort out the financially-striken South London Healthcare Trust, went outside his remit in including Lewisham in his plans.

John Lister, director of London Health Emergency, said: “I’m pleasantly suprised. The decision to downgrade services in the first place was all about bailing out SLHT and it’s clear there’s no viable financial solution for the trust.

“I would have liked the judge to take into account all of the TSA’s recommendations because I think they could be potentially disastrous for south-east London health.

Julie MottJulie Mott

“I don’t think any part of the plan is clinically sound. Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health) and Matthew Kershaw had no right getting involved with a trust outside their remit.

“I’ve always tried to emphasis that this is a blow for health services across south-east London.”

Campaigner Julie Mott, of Petts Wood, added she was pleased services have been saved for the local community but expressed concern about how the Department of Health will react to having the downgrading quashed.

She said: “It’s great for the people of Lewisham, as well as the people of Bexley and Bromley, that the A&E will remain fully functioning. Two A&E’s in such a large part of London would have been ridiculous.

“But I’m worried about what the Department of Health will do next. They need to save some money somewhere and it seems they’re insistent of cutting back services somewhere.

“I’m worried that the Princess Royal could become a satellite for King’s in the distant future, if it’s felt the two hospitals can cope with one A&E.

“I’d like to know how much money it’s going to cost to reconfigure the services. It seems this is all about saving money and Jeremy Hunt has been very secretive about that.”

The office of the trust special administrator released a statement, saying it expects the other recommendations and the dissolution of SLHT to go ahead: “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 October 1.

“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.”

A Department of Health spokesperson added: “This judgement applies to one aspect of a package of changes which we believe are in the best long-term interests of patients and the public across south-east London.

“As it stands, the South London Healthcare NHS Trust has been running at a loss of about £1million a week - money that has to be diverted from frontline patient care.

“So of course we are disappointed by this decision. We need to consider the judgment carefully, and have obtained permission to appeal.

“We expect to continue other elements of that package of changes, including the dissolution of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, planned for October 1 – although there are a number of steps to go before that can take place.”


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