Hunt Fought the Law And The Law Won
Today we residents of the South East London Borough of Lewisham are celebrating. After a hard-fought battle, taken all the way to the Court of Appeal, the Jeremy Hunt-led government fight to shut down Lewisham Hospital’s Accident & Emergency department (leaving skeleton services only) and to drastically scale back maternity services has lost. Lewisham residents have won and we shall keep our hospital services so desperately needed by an ever-growing borough in ever-increasing poverty.
First, some background:
2012 – the decision is made by the Department of Health to downgrade Lewisham Hospital services. The campaigns against this decision start almost immediately.
2012-2013 – marches, protests outside BBC Question Time (filmed at Goldsmith’s College, New Cross, in December 2012), fund-raising activities, petitions and myriad other activities show the many thousands who support the campaign to Lewisham Hospital.
July 2013 – Save Lewisham Hospital Group and Lewisham Council, represented by Rosa Curling, take Jeremy Hunt and the government to court. Mr Justice Silber stated the government acted unlawfully and outside their remit under the National Health Services Act 2006. The government launches an appeal.
29th October 2013 – Lord Dyson (the Master of the Rolls) presiding with Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Underhill, rejected an appeal brought by the Government and upheld the decision.
So how did the losing side react? Quoted in a variety of media sources, Mr Hunt and his department are “‘now looking at the law’ to ensure changes can be driven through in future ‘when local doctors believe it is in the interests of patients’.”
The Gagging Law is important to the Government, as without such groups as 38 Degrees, Save Lewisham Hospital and individuals donating funds to challenge government decisions, in this case over £20,000 was required, the attempt to circumvent due process would have succeeded and Lewisham would have been downgraded. Lives would have been lost. The Gagging Law will prevent such challenges being possible within a year of elections – the implications of this are clear.
Mr Hunt’s comment implies a consultation with the GPs and Hospital Specialist in the area being affected before forcing change, but this was not the case with regard to Lewisham Hospital. No Lewisham GP or Lewisham Hospital staff member had been consulted about the decision because it was concerning a neighbouring Trust. The decision was made because the failing South London Healthcare Trust was losing £1million a week. Lewisham Hospital is not part of, nor has it ever been financially linked to, the SLHT. Lewisham Hospital is a successful hospital under government own guidelines. It has received much investment and is a flagship hospital now.
This was the government robbing a newly-successful Peter serving a vulnerable and poor population to pay Paul’s PFI-created debts, which would only end up in both in debt and ripe for privatisation.
The correct response would be for the government to accept defeat and to abide by the rules, guidelines and laws they themselves set up. This was the first decision of the Unsustainable Providers Regime created by this government to deal with failing (i.e. underperforming/not profitable) NHS Trusts. This legal decision, backed at appeal, states the government acted unlawfully.
For the government through Hunt to now suggest a change in the law is required is nothing short of dictatorial tyranny. Time for a change of government. Time for a revolution in political thought and process.
Time for the government to go.
(congratulations to all at Save Lewisham Hospital)