Jeremy Hunt in 'humiliating' Lewisham Hospital defeat
Court of Appeal rules that Health Secretary acted illegally in bid to make cuts at London hospital
JEREMY HUNT did not have the power to make cuts at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
The Health Secretary wanted to close Lewisham's A&E department and reduce its maternity department to help solve the financial problems of the neighbouring but unconnected South London Healthcare Trust, which was losing more than £1m a week.
Campaign group Save Lewisham Hospital and the London Borough of Lewisham took the government to court, arguing that Lewisham Hospital should not be punished for the failings of a separate trust.
While a High Court judge previously ruled that Hunt had acted illegally under the National Health Service Act 2006, the government hoped to have this decision overruled today in a bid to push through the cuts.
But the Court of Appeal judges – Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Underhill – took just 10 minutes of deliberation to confirm that Hunt had acted outside his powers in trying to use Lewisham to tackle the debts at an unconnected NHS trust.
Rosa Curling, who represented Save Lewisham Hospital, said she was "absolutely delighted" with the decision. "This expensive waste of time for the government should serve as a wake-up call that they cannot ride roughshod over the needs of the people," she added.
Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, told the Evening Standard that the decision was a "humiliation" for Hunt and raised "major questions" about his judgement.
"The Court has done an important public service today in standing up to an arrogant and high-handed government and a secretary of state who is trying to close A&Es across London in the middle of the worst A&E crisis in living memory," he said.
The Independent describes the decision as "a blow at the highest legal level" to the government's much-lauded new plan to speed up the process of turning around failing hospitals.
But campaigners have warned that Hunt is still trying to gain powers to axe services at successful hospitals to benefit failing ones through an amendment to the Care Bill, which is currently making its way through the Commons. ·