HEALTH unions and other campaigners have welcomed the ruling that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had acted unlawfully by ordering the closure of the Accident and Emergency and maternity wards at Lewisham Hospital in south London.
It follows an eight-month campaign which also saw the biggest public protest of its kind in that part of the capital.
The judge ruled that Jeremy Hunt had exceeded his powers in trying to reduce services at the hospital.
Unite said that in failing to gain the support of local GP commissioners – one of the Government’s own essential criteria for hospital department closures – the Secretary of State had failed his own test and must now accept defeat.
Steve Turner, Unite executive director of policy, said: “The decision to cut services at Lewisham hospital was idiotic from the outset.
“But Jeremy Hunt chose his ideology over medical and community sense which is why he has been slapped down by the court.
“The judge has exposed the Government as NHS vandals, with a Health Secretary prepared to flout its own rules to destroy a successful hospital.
“Jeremy Hunt has been told loudly and clearly – you acted unlawfully and outside your powers. He was told this long ago but would not listen.
“If there are concerns in the south London cluster of hospitals, then these need to be addressed by tackling the appalling PFI debts crippling these services. Downgrading Lewisham hospital is not the answer.
“The answer is to address the handcuff contracts choking the life out of the NHS.”
Lawyers for the campaign successfully argued that the Secretary of State had exceeded his powers by attempting to impose ward closures on Lewisham Hospital using cost-saving measures – and the appointment of a special administrator – for a neighbouring NHS trust.
The RMT also joined those congratulating the Save Lewisham Hospital campaigners and the Borough of Lewisham for bringing their legal challenge.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Their success will send out the message to communities and workplaces the length and breadth of the land that through determination and solidarity we can turn back the tide of cuts and austerity.
“RMT’s own former Assistant General Secretary Pat Sikorski is heavily involved in the Lewisham campaign as are our members and branches in South East London.
“We know full well that an attack on our NHS is an attack on the most important gains that have been secured by working people since the end of the Second World War.
“We also pay tribute to the work of Millwall Football Club and its players who have worn the “Save Lewisham” campaign shirts and flown the flag all the way from Wolverhampton to Wembley.
“The message from today is clear – if you stand up and fight you can win, if you don’t they will trample all over you.”