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South London Healthcare administrator 'went outside of remit' claim lawyers at High Court

PUBLISHED: 15:05 04 July 2013 | UPDATED: 15:27 04 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

The lawyer for Lewisham Council accused South London Healthcare Trust Special Administrator (TSA) Matthew Kershaw of using "language riddled with intellectual dishonesty" in the report which recommended the downgrading of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital.

Elisabeth Laing QC made the allegation at the High Court this afternoon, where two judicial reviews into Mr Kershaw’s recommendations are due to end today.

They have been brought by Lewisham Council and campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital (SLH) who both believe the plans to downgrade the hospitals emergency unit are unlawful.

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 1 million people.

Ms Laing also claimed the government’s four tests to determine whether local health services could be reconfigured have not been met.

She said: “Undue weight was given to other health professionals and communities.

“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 serve agree, and that has clearly not been met.”

The legal arguments centre around two key facets – Mr Kershaw, and therefore Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, going outside their remit and including Lewisham Hospital in their plans rather than just SLHT, and the perceived failure to meet four key government tests when considering the reconfiguration of local health services – GP support, public engagement, clear clinical evidence and improved patient choice.

David Lock QC, representing the SLH campaign group, said: “The four tests should be locally led.”

But the government’s representative, Rory Phillips QC, said that the situation was not black and white, saying: “The tests were not formulated to apply to the TSA regime, which was not invoked when the tests came into law.”

He added: “The TSA has to have regard for the four tests, and the secretary of state is satisfied these have been fulfilled. This is a genuine statement.”

The decision by Mr Justice Silber will not be made at the end of the hearing – the judge has already said he will make it in writing after he has had time to consider the evidence due to the importance of the case.

Mr Lock QC made the point that the TSA would not have been appointed to Lewisham, a successful and financially stable trust, in any other circumstances.

He added: “His recommendations were outside the TSA process. He had been appointed to South London Healthcare Trust, not Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust.”

Mr Kershaw recommended the disolution of SLHT, which is due to start in October.

However its dismantling cannot begin until the uncertainty over Lewisham has been resolved.

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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