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South London Healthcare administrator took “back door approach” to include Lewisham in plans as High Court cases end

PUBLISHED: 18:02 04 July 2013 | UPDATED: 17:14 05 July 2013

Campaigners outside the High Court before where two judicial reviews into downgrading of services at Lewisham Hospital are being heard. Pic by Simon Way.

Campaigners outside the High Court before where two judicial reviews into downgrading of services at Lewisham Hospital are being heard. Pic by Simon Way.

Archant

Save Lewisham Hospital’s lawyer says trust special administrator Matthew Kershaw used his role as an opportunity for a “much wider design of south-east London healthcare” as two High Court judicial reviews into the downgrading of Lewisham Hospital’s services.

David Lock QC said including Lewisham in the proposals was “not the purpose of the TSA regime” and he had taken a backdoor approach to the reconfiguration of services.”

Two three-day judicial reviews taken by Lewisham Council and SLH started on Tuesday and the main arguments focused on two legal points - that Mr Kershaw, and by association health secretary Jeremy Hunt, went outside his remit in including Lewisham when he was £200million in debt; and that the reconfiguration of services fails to meet four key tests set out by the government - GP support, public engagement, clear clinical evidence and improved patient choice.

Mr Kershaw was appointed to look into the financially stricken South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which includes Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, the Princess Royal in Orpington and Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich.

However, during the process of his administration Mr Kershaw took into consideration healthcare across the whole of south London, including Lewisham Hospital, Kings College Hospital in Camberwell and even Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

If his recommendations go ahead, there will be just two A&E units across the four boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham - which have a combined population of over one million people.

Mr Lock QC said: “The TSA and secretary of state misunderstood their powers. On the face of it, they acted unlawfully beyond their powers.”

This point was backed by Elisabeth Laing QC, the counsel for Lewisham Council.

She accused Mr Kershaw of “language riddled with intellectual dishonesty” in the original report which recommended the downgrading of Lewisham Hosapital’s A&E and maternity services.

While the government’s representative, Rory Phillips QC, said “the tests were not formulated to apply to the TSA regime, Miss Laing QC disagreed.

She said: ““It is unreasonable to consider other GPs and communities are as important as in Lewisham, because they will be the ones who are most drastically affected.

“It is made clear in the outline to the four tests that changes should not be made at local hospitals unless clinical staff and the communities the hospital serves agree, and that has clearly not been met.”

While the majority of the day was spent debating whether the four points had been met, the lawyers for Lewisham Council and SLH both made the point that the TSA would never have been appointed to Lewisham Hospital in normal circumstances, because it is a successful, financially stable trust.

Judge Mr Justice Silber says he hopes to make his written recommendations by the end of the month. They will be available to view online once they are announced.

SLH have confirmed they will appeal if the decision goes against them.

Mr Kershaw recommended the dissolution of SLHT, which is due to start in October. However its dismantling cannot begin until the uncertainty over Lewisham has been resolved. Mr Phillips QC made the point that even if the claimants are successful the rest of the TSA’s recommendations would still stand, and it remains to be seen what happens with the rest of the dismantling of SLHT, and the speed of it.

What do you think about the future of healthcare in south-east London? Email robin.cottle@Archant.co.uk with your views or tweet @bexleytimes.


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