Lewisham Council launches legal action against A&E downgrade

A letter from Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock reads:

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, Lewisham Council delivered a letter launching legal action against Jeremy Hunt’s disgraceful decision to press ahead with the downgrade of Lewisham Hospital’s maternity and emergency services.

The letter makes clear to the Secretary of State and to the Trust Special Administrator that I do not believe that they had the statutory power to make such major changes to Lewisham Hospital.

We are advised, and I believe, that we have a very good case. Of course we run a risk that we may be forced to pay legal costs should we not win our case outright. But the strength of feeling in the Council, and in the community, that this is such an important issue it is a risk worth taking. The Council is in the best position in the community to take the leadership on this issue now and to pursue the argument in the courts.

How you can help

I have already been asked by local people how they can support this legal action. That is why the Council has set up a ‘Legal Challenge Fund’ to enable people to make their own financial contribution to the legal action. I would be delighted if you wanted to make a donation, no matter how large or small. Any money that is unspent will be donated to a local health charity, Children First Lewisham.

We are in the first stages of what could be a long legal process. I will endeavor to keep you up to date with its progress. In the mean time, please feel free to pass this message on to friends and family who want to help us save Lewisham Hospital.

Via the South East London Forum.


Mezzer said...

Really pleased to hear this.  I'll certainly be contributing too.

Malyons said...

Great news, these disasterous plans need to be blown out of the water.

Interested to read via the Save Lewi Hospital website that Jeremy Hunt's

PROUDEST POLITICAL ACHIEVEMENT:Working with local campaigners to save the Royal Surrey County Hospital’s A&E department fromclosure. A 6,000-strong rally, packed public meetings and a candle-lit vigil at Parliament all forced the local Primary Care Trust to keep the area’s vital resource open.http://www.savelewishamhospital.com/jeremy-hunt/

CB said...

That's great.

The whole situation throws such clear light on the current government's hypocricy - decentralised, local services (unless they decide to step in and destroy them regardless of the needs and desires of local government and citizens).

Vesta Curry said...

Well done - I was afeared that the country at large would assume that this story was 'over' - with a superficial compromise from Hunt and the story dropping out of the national media. Decisions like this (cf. the Dept of Education!) show the fallacy of Tory 'decentralisation' ... actually they are arch control freaks and like nothing better than waving the ministerial pen over all manner of local issues (sometimes at the level of extreme micromanagement) to demonstrate their power. Freaks! Good on Lewisham Council.

anonymous said...


Ian Duffy said...

I'm in. Well done Lewisham council.

guest 1 said...

The legal costs are non going to be covered by donations. This is a scandal, why don't the council CEO and other officials tax themselves to pay for the legal challenge instead of committing public funds

Monkeyboy said...

For the same reason they use public funds to sue contractors or individuals who need to be legally challenged. It's always a balance of public interest and chance of success.

hardlianotion said...

I can't say I'm impressed.  The decision was bad, for sure, but Bullock has to spell out why he thinks central government has no rights in this matter, for me.  Otherwise, it just looks like grandstanding.  What is the argument, all you fold that are contributing with gusto?

Mezzer said...

Mayor Sir Steve Bullock has written letters to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Matthew Kershaw, the administrator who originally proposed closing the department entirely.
The council will give Mr Hunt until February 22 to perform a U-turn on his announcement - or they will seek a judicial review of the decision.
The letter states: “The Council’s firm view, on legal advice, is that the TSA (Mr Kershaw) had no power under the relevant statutory regime, to consider, or to make recommendations to you about, services provided by any NHS body other than South London Healthcare, the Trust to which you appointed him.
“It follows from this that you, in making a decision on the TSA’s recommendations, had no power to make a decision which purports to affect the operation of Lewisham Hospital.”

Guest 1 said...

 Well if they challange contractors or individuals and win they recoup legal expenses. A Council paying lawyers to challange the Government that pays lawyer to defend themselves is a lose-lose situation for the taxpayer and a win-win for lawyers.

This seems more of a tantrum from a Council that has not been able to lobby its case successfully. Lewisham is at the bottom of all statistics, there must be some reason...

Cathsheehan said...

Guest 1, Lewisham hospital is a well regarded, well run hospital. It's rated highly nationally in terms of its care provision. It also has no debt. It's certainly not "at the bottom of all statistics". The Council is not "throwing a tantrum" but trying to save services desperately needed by the community - A&E and maternity services.

These services are being closed to meet the financial shortfall of neighbouring but entirely seperate health trust. This is why the council has such a strong case and I for one support their endeavours and will contribute to their fighting fund.

There's been a lot of central government spin around this issue - I'm sorry you've fallen for it...

Jim Connell said...

Come on, get your money out.  This could be a great investment.
Population of Lewisham is around 250,000.
Two quid a head (sorry big families!) equals half a million pounds.
It must be worth a serious try to save our much-loved hospital.

Monkeyboy said...

...and if they win they don't. Hunt will have spent your tax £ on lawyers advising him. It's a professional service, you can make a judgement as to whether its worth it. Or do you think local authorities shold NEVER challenge central governement?

ScandieAndy said...

 Yes, exactly where are the statistics which show Lewisham to be "bottom"?

Tressilliana said...

 I don't know what you mean by 'Lewisham is at the bottom of all statistics'. I am no Bullock fan but Lewisham children's services (covering social services and education) is actually one of the best regarded in the country, according to Ofsted (given top rating in 2009, 2010, 2011). Lewisham Hospital, which of course is not run  by Lewisham Council, is also a pretty good hospital by most measures.

Fifi @ Marketmagpie.com said...

great news, donation incomming, no-one ever regretted trying. The march support was overwhelming, it proves how important this is for us all. 

Guest 1 said...

The decision to optimise the system is a good one. Should they do it in a different way? Perhaps, but Bollock does not say why and how. To those who say it is a problem related to "other" trusts I say that the money that cames out of my poket in the form of tax, pays for all of the trusts, so I sincerely do not buy the Political spin given by Lewisham Council - us vs them.

I welcome any attempt to cut inherited deficits, how to do it I leave it to the elected Government to decide. There are political arenas where highly paid politicians and civil cervant administrators can challange and influence decisions. If they are not capable to do so it is their failure, so I would expect Bullock and company to resign for having once again been incapable of achieving what he thinks is the best for Lewisham. These people are highly paid but obviously not accountable for they shorfalls.

So people on this blog who are disappointed by Hunt's decision should ask for Bullock's resignation, rather than backing a undetailed legal tantrum.

The decision to waste money in lawyers shows in my option very clearly the low regard administrators have for balancing their books when they can use tax payers money for political headlines. I wonder how much of their £300k+ packages (which still comes from the same tax source) are they going to commit to this cause.

And to those who really think this is not just a political stunt, well I just think that your are gulliblefools. Meanwhile 4 years after the crisis the debt swallows up... and the economy stagnates.


Max Calò said...

Guest 1, looks like you're suffering from a severe form of intoxication from political bile and venom.
If Lewisham Council's legal challenge will save Lewisham Hospital from the attack it came under then you'll still have a chance to be treated locally.

The Council is correctly interpreting its role and doing what no other entity of this community can do, they must be applauded and supported.

It was Jeremy Hunt that acted outside the spirit of the democratic mandate he has and hopefully he acted also outside its legal parameters.
The Special Administrator of SLHT has also acted outside of the parameters of due diligence that his senior managerial role would involve and has suggested a decision on the basis of a pile of fabricated data to justify a foregone conclusion cooked behind closed doors by the highest hechelons of Whitehall without involving anyone locally.

There have been reports of senior figures in the local NHS structure that were involved in the preparation of the report and they have gone public about how during the process any input to improve the plan was rejected to safeguard that foregone conclusion.
There was no other input that the one from above and this is not the way we should restructure anything in this world.

Monkeyboy said...

Oh please, our local politicians are also elected. In fact that is not especially relevant, anyone can launch a court action or do you think that governments are exempt from legal challenge? The government set the criteria, they set a process in place that had to be followed. There is an argument that it wasn't followed, hence the challenge. Checks and balances and leaders being accountable is the basis of a modern democracy. It may fail, like any action of course.

democracy does not mean vote every four years and keep quiet until the next time, that's is especially important when only a last minute coalition led to a viable government. They limped in, they must be kept honest. A noisy, demanding electorate does that. I suspect you'd be annoyed if a left wing government did what it liked based on 40% of the popular vote or even 51%. I would too. When you grow up you realise that those in power are largely there because they want that power not because they are our most capable 600 citizens. That's fine but they need to be reminded how fragile their position is. It's worth paying for that.

Monkeyboy said...

Oh, and our local MPs who sit in House of Commons, who represent us also back the legal challenge so your argument fails on its own terms. Local and central government for our area agree

Max Calò said...

By the way, I read in the Standard that:

"Mr Hunt’s statement in the Commons, that the proposals “could save up to 100 lives every year”, was not in a report prepared by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, as the minister claimed, but was based on general research that was several years old."


Vesta Curry said...

Your pointing up of interference at the highest level (i.e. Whitehall ... and, again, you hear the same thing time and time again with Gove in Education) seems to reinforce my point about the fallacy of Tory localism/decentralisation strand ... it is 1984 doublespeak, I honestly believe that.

se13 6 said...

You're missing a significant point here. The TSA (Matthew Kershaw) was appointed under the Regime for Unsustainable Providers. The Regime "is an exceptional way in
which the Government can take decisive action to deal with NHS Trusts
that are either unsustainable in their current configuration or at
serious risk of failing to deliver sustainable services".

This is the first time that legal permissions under UPR have been implemented. Kershaw was appointed to sort out the mess that the SLHT found itself in. He was not appointed to involve himself in any way in the affairs of Lewisham Hospital. Lewisham Hospital is not unsustainable and is not at serious risk of failing to deliver sustainable services. On the contrary it is a well regarded solvent institution providing decent* to excellent healthcare to all who use it. It has taken a great deal of time and trouble to improve its services to the extent that it is one of only four hospitals in London in the list of top 40 hospitals in the UK. 

There has been a very strong body of evidence to support the allegations that the reconfiguration of health services in SE London is primarily, if not entirely, driven by financial and not clinical outcomes.

If this is not challenged in the courts it will set a precedent whereby no hospital, no matter how competent and well regarded, is safe from being sacrificed to protect the financial obligations related to the, often badly negotiated, PFI contracts of its neighbouring healthcare providers.

Lewisham council is possibly the best body to put up that challenge.

OR IN OTHER WORDS if you bought a car on HP at the same time your neighbour three doors down bought a car on HP on less advantageous terms you'd be properly miffed if he couldn't afford to keep up the payments but the bailiffs came and took your car, even though you'd kept up your payments, because your neighbour's HP company was "owed one" by the bailiffs and there was new legislation that might, subject to interpretation, support the bailiffs in doing this.

If it was a very new law [that let the bailiffs effectively nick your car for no wrongdoing on your part] you'd want that law tested in the courts. Wouldn't you?

That's what Lewisham council is doing.

*No damning with faint praise intended

Vesta Curry said...

*like* very much ... clear and powerfully true

guest said...

Could someone please share a link to the full 33-page legal letter from the council to the government?hsj.co.uk offers it to subscribers only.
Would be a good read before committing funds to the project. 

hardlianotion said...

Good reply which makes the point I was looking for.  

I am bound to say that the high regard that Lewisham Hospital is held in comes as a surprise to me having spent a good proportion of last year negotiating the hospital services.

CB said...

hardlianotion - I take your point from a personal point of view, as my experiences of Lewisham hospital have been mixed, and I sympathise if you've had a frustrating time. However, I am very much against erroding the services provided by the hospital. Why? Because there is no logical reason why putting MORE pressure on the already highly pressured local NHS services should go any way towards improving our experiences - things will just get worse! We should be investing in improving this basic public service, not acting to its detriment... 

se13 6 said...

CB and hardlianotion - I hear what you are saying but what do you expect from a completely free (ignore NI contributions) service. I've ended up at Lewisham hospital about once a year in the eleven years I've lived round the corner from it and my experience is that it does ok/well/brilliant.

I waited for six hours to have cracked ribs attended to but there is nothing one can do for cracked ribs other than give advice for self management. [The Triage was competent. And compassionate. I got knockout painkillers and a lot of sympathy while I waited. It was a Saturday night and I saw people more in need of urgent treatment than me. Where's the grounds for complaint?]

I've been escalated from minor injuries to A&E with an infected insect bite showing dramatic tracking in seconds. [I thought the fever was maybe a cold coming on]

I busted my wrist and the consultant ordered 2 X rays. I was so convinced that I needed another angle that the X ray person took them (maybe he didn't but he told me he did). I was wrong the consultant was right.

I think, on the basis of my personal experience, Lewisham does what it can for the benefit of every one of its patients.

BUT the reason I think that Lewisham is so well regarded is because it has worked very hard to close the gaps between someone in hospital to someone just out of hospital. The MS patient who might need a bit of extra monitoring; The child with prolonged health issues needing to get back into education. I don't work in the NHS, I'd like to hear from someone who does.

boris johnson said...

Just tried to contribute but the payment form is not working. Does that sum up the situation?

Tamsin said...

Worked ok for me - maybe they didn't trust your name!

Mezzer said...

Worrying times. Last week the press contained details of record waiting times at A & E's and yet we have more downgrades announced:


Mezzer said...

This has got to be encouraging news:


"Winning this case in the High Court proves once and for all that the
supposed consultation was a rubber-stamping exercise conducted with an outcome
in mind, with clinicians, MPs and patients fooled into feeling they had
"This action was taken by parents and clinicians who simply could not stand
by and watch a clear injustice being done."

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