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'Humiliated' Hunt had no power to implement Lewisham changes

'Humiliated' Hunt had no power to implement Lewisham changes

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have the power to implement changes at Lewisham Hospital, the Court of Appeal has ruled. 

A group of judges ruled that Hunt’s move to downgrade the south east London A&E and maternity services was ‘unlawful’. 

Lord Justice Silber had already ruled that Hunt acted outside of his powers in July. 

And the government’s attempt to get the decision overruled was overturned this week. 

Hunt said: "I completely understand why the residents of Lewisham did not want any change in their A&E services, but my job as health secretary is to protect patients across south London - and doctors said these proposals would save lives.

"We are now looking at the law to make sure that at a time of great challenge the NHS is able to change and innovate when local doctors believe it is in the interests of patients."

Hunt appointed a trust special administrator (TSA) to the South London Healthcare Trust, which went into administration after losing more than £1 million each week.

The TSA then recommended cuts to the hospital. At court on Monday the TSA argued that they had not acted outside of their powers, challenging the decision that the TSA did not have the power to recommend the changes, and that Hunt was not entitled to implement them. 

The government is seeking to change the law surrounding the powers of TSAs, so that when an NHS trust is brought into a failure regime, the TSA and the government can also change services at any hospital within the local healthcare economy.

Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford said that the ruling was a “humiliation” for the Health Secretary.

“He should have accepted the earlier decision and I cannot believe how he justified bringing this to the Appeals Court at such an expenditure of public money, at a time when the Government is urging everyone to tighten their belts. I think this was just bravado on his part,” she told The Independent.

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