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London hospital cuts decision 'unlawful', claim campaigners

A High Court judge has been urged to overturn an “unlawful” decision to reduce services at a major hospital.

Campaigners packed a courtroom where Mr Justice Silber is being asked to rule on two legal challenges against cuts at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs in January that accident and emergency and maternity services at the hospital will be downgraded.

The London Borough of Lewisham and the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign argue that the decision to cut some of the hospital’s services was “unlawful” and should be quashed.

Opponents say that if the decision is implemented it would result in “substantial” cuts to the services provided by Lewisham Healthcare Trust at the hospital.

Elisabeth Laing QC, for the council, told the judge at a hearing in London that Lewisham was a “very good hospital” and the range of health services provided there was “greatly valued by local people and by the council”.

If the changes were made it would mean local people “will have to travel a long, long way further to get access to vital services”.

The proposed changes are part of a wider shake-up of services in the capital after the financial collapse of neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which went into administration after it started losing more than £1m a week.

Mr Hunt told MPs the changes would improve patient care in south London, saving up to 100 lives a year.

Ms Laing, describing the decision made in relation to Lewisham’s services as “unlawful”, said that - pending the court’s decision - the health secretary had undertaken not to implement the changes under challenge.

The judge indicated that because of the importance of the case he would be reserving his judgment at the conclusion of the three-day hearing and would announce his decision later in a written ruling.

He will hear submissions on behalf of the health secretary that the decision made in relation to Lewisham was not unlawful.

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • How could closing parts of Lewisham save lives? This is a large, busy, London teaching hospital, where are their patients supposed to go? Kings, Guys (already busy) or down the other way to Farnborough?
    This is just ridiculous, closing beds in any hospital does not work.
    Lewisham is an excellent hospital, it has one of the busiest A&E in the country and the childrens unit is world-renowned.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • tinkerbell

    i don't live in Lewisham but no matter, I donated to the cause to get the right honourable (laugh up sleeve) Hunt to answer to the law of the land. Hope he gets trounced. Is trounced a word? If so hope he gets it.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Does JH even know where Lewisham is?
    I know that part of London very well, it's a 'scandal' in the true sense of the word to even think about cutting services or attempting to 're-structure' the London hospitals - it didn't work before and I doubt it could work now.
    Do the people who try and make these decisions use the South London A&E services or have they ever been NHS patients in any of our inner-city hospitals?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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