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Lewisham hospital High Court bid

A government challenge to overturn a High Court ban on planned cuts at Lewisham Hospital is to be heard today.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suffered an embarrassing defeat when changes to emergency and maternity services were declared "unlawful" in July.

Lewisham Hospital was saved from cuts in July Credit: Reuters

The government lost the case because the cuts were judged to be in breach of the National Health Services Act 2006.

The Health Secretary was attempting to deal with problems created by the financial collapse of neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which went into administration after it started losing more than £1 million a week.

Royal Brompton: the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK

The Royal Brompton Hospital Credit: ITN

In 2009, officials launched the "safe and sustainable review", conducted by the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) of England, to assess how best to streamline paediatric congenital cardiac surgery services.

The review concluded that expertise was spread too thinly in the 10 sites which house the surgical units and should be concentrated in fewer hospitals.

While experts were deliberating which sites should close, the Royal Brompton in Chelsea, west London - later named as a site earmarked for closure - launched a legal dispute over the consultation process.

The hospital, which is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK, argued that the process was unlawful.

It won a High Court action against the JCPCT in November 2011 - the first time one NHS organisation had taken legal action against another.

But the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal in April last year. The Royal Brompton said the proposals could put its future in doubt, but judges ruled that the consultation process was fair.

Last July, officials announced that the Royal Brompton, Leeds General Infirmary and Glenfield Hospital in Leicester would close their units.

The institutions chosen to house the specialist surgery centres were the Evelina Hospital, which is part of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, and Great Ormond Street, both in London and units in Southampton, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Liverpool.

But the move was heavily criticised by medics, campaign groups and the families of children who had used the services at the three sites earmarked for closure.

In October, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into the decision to stop surgery at the three units following pressure from councillors in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire over the closure of the unit at Glenfield.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel report is due to be published later today.

National

Hunt hits out at 'discredited' MMR scare claims

A global scare sparked by the "discredited and inaccurate" claims of a doctor 15 years ago over the MMR vaccine have caused huge worry to parents in South Wales following a measles epidemic in the region, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Mr Hunt said Dr Andrew Wakefield's comments about the vaccination had "absolutely no scientific basis" as he urged parents of children who had not been given two doses to contact their local GP as soon as possible.

Mr Hunt told the Commons, "What Andrew Wakefield said had absolutely no scientific basis and has caused huge damage and huge worry to many thousands of parents".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Credit: ITV News

"It is very important to reiterate that the scientific way to prevent measles, which can be a horrible, even fatal disease, is to make sure that you have had two doses of MMR", he continued.

"Parents of children who have not had those doses, parents of children of any age, should contact their GP if they have not had those two doses, particularly in the current circumstances".

London A&Es future unclear

Lewisham Hospital's A&E department under threat Credit: ITN

An unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners has come together to raise the alarm regarding what they say is the biggest threat to A & Es,maternity units and in-hospital care for a generation.

ConcernedLondoners have lobbied MPs to highlight threats to the NHS in London which willinclude protests, pickets, rallies, demonstrations, candle lit vigils andmusical events.

Campaigners claim these threats include the closure of Lewisham Hospital's new A&E and maternity units, paediatric services and ICU announced last week by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt.

They say the closest A&E at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich has lesser facilities,is financially unstable and is a two hour bus ride away for many residents.

It comes as Lewisham council threatened Mr Hunt with legal action and has also setup a Legal Challenge Fund to allow people in the community to contribute to the action.

SeveralPrimary Care Trusts are due to make their final recommendations throughoutFebruary after which their reports will go to Jeremy Hunt for a final decision.

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Campaigners brand government arrogant and stupid

Our reporter Paul Brand has been watching Jeremy Hunt's announcement on the future of Lewisham hospital with the campaigners who protested against the plans.

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Campaigners laugh here as Hunt claims there was extensive public engagement over plans #Lewisham

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'I am staggered how arrogant and stupid this government can be' - Vicky Penner, save Lewisham campaigner

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Campaigners claim the government has 'committed suicide' and they will fight this all the way. They're not fooled by a 'confusing fudge'

Jeremy Hunt's first hospital tour as Health Secretary

Jeremy Hunt talks to NHS staff at St Thomas' Hospital.
Jeremy Hunt talks to NHS staff at St Thomas' Hospital. Credit: BBC Pool.

Jeremy Hunt joined the rounds at St Thomas' today, for his first hospital tour since he became Health Secretary.

He met some of the staff who've been nominated by patients for an NHS Heroes award.

Mr Hunt was also told that care for older patients had been improved at the hospital, with more training for staff and better nutrition for patients.

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