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Legal fight to save A&E

PUBLISHED: 11:32 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 25 August 2010

A COUNCIL is to go it alone in a final bid to save hospital services and take its appeal to the Secretary of State.

A COUNCIL is to go it alone in a final bid to save hospital services and take its appeal to the Secretary of State.

Bexley councillors are due to build a dossier of evidence against the closure of A&E and maternity services at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup next Monday.

Councillors were forced to take on the battle alone after neighbouring boroughs failed to agree on taking action last Thursday.

Now, rather than opting for a judicial review which would cost thousands in legal fees, they will appeal to the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, to review the decision made by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) on July 21.

Bexley council's member for health, Sharon Massey said: "This decision is absurd and we have to stand up and be counted.

"You feel you are fighting a losing battle, but you can't just stand back and let them take our services.

"These changes are going to start being implemented, so we can't just sit around waiting while staff are leaving Queen Mary's.

"It's hard to say how long our case will take to build. It could be up to two weeks."

To make a case to the Secretary of State, the council must provide evidence against the decision to be evaluated by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

But even if the case is approved, the IRP would only give a set of recommendations to the Secretary of State, who could then go against it. Bexley council could seek judicial review, but this would incur legal fees and only challenge the consultation process.

Mrs Massey added: "At the moment we want to go to IRP because we want to challenge the decision as well as the process.

"With judicial review there would be a financial cost. You have to think what is right for your taxpayers.

"Going to the Secretary of State will be relatively low cost."

At the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) last Thursday, councillors from neighbouring boroughs in Bromley, Greenwich and south-east London voted six for, six against challenging A Picture of Health's (APOH) consultation on hospital reconfiguration.

Under the plans, vital services will be taken from QMS and given to PFI builds Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, and Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough.

Now QMS will be left with a centre for minor accidents and expanded planned surgery facilities.

University Hospital Lewisham is also to lose its 24-hour A&E coverage.

Bexley council are expected to start the process at the Health and Adult Social Care and Scrutiny Committee next Monday at 7.30pm in the Bexleyheath Civic Offices

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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