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Campaigners have saved Lewisham hospital from cuts, winning their long-running battle with the Health Secretary. And this time their victory seems final.
Judges today backed a court ruling this summer that Jeremy Hunt didn't have the power to downgrade Lewisham's A&E and maternity units. But what will today's defeat for the government mean for the future of other hospitals? With the full story here's our Political Correspondent Simon Harris.
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.
Vicky Penner is a mother of three young children who has been involved in the campaign from the start. She said she was delighted by today's decision:
"We are thrilled that justice has prevailed for a second time. I was shocked that the Government was arrogant and foolish enough to carry on and try and bully through the closure of our excellent much-needed Lewisham Hospital."
This decision is a humiliation for Jeremy Hunt and raises major questions about his judgment.
Instead of graciously accepting the first court ruling, he has squandered thousands of (pounds of) taxpayers' money trying to protect his own pride and defend the indefensible. He is diminished by this ruling and has let down the NHS.
Today, the Secretary of State must accept this decision, apologise unreservedly to the people of Lewisham and give an unequivocal commitment that their A&E will not now be downgraded.
Judges at the Court of Appeal ruled Jeremy Hunt had breached provisions of the National Health Services Act 2006. It is a serious setback for the Health Secretary because the case involves the first legal testing of a new Government procedure for dealing with failing NHS organisations.
We are absolutely delighted with the Court of Appeal's decision today. It confirms what the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign has been arguing from the start - that the Secretary of State did not have the legal power to close and downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital.
This expensive waste of time for the Government should serve as a wake up call that they cannot ride roughshod over the needs of the people.
The decision to dismiss the appeal also reaffirms the need for judicial review, a legal process by which the unlawful decisions of public bodies, including the Government, can be challenged by the public. The Government's current consultation on the judicial review process is in direct response to these types of cases where it has acted unlawfully but does not want to be challenged by those who put them in power.
Today's decision came on the second day of a hearing at the Court of Appeal:
- Supporters cheered when Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice Underhill, gave their decision
- An appeal was brought by the Government over a High Court judge's ruling in July
The Court of Appeal has ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have the power to implement cuts at Lewisham Hospital in south east London.