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Lizzie Dearden, Reporter
Monday, August 5, 2013
Redbridge Council lawyers are looking into the possibility of a legal challenge to stop the closure of King George Hospital’s A&E after the downgrading of services at Lewisham Hospital was overturned in court last week.
Council leader Cllr Keith Prince directed the lawyers to research courses of action following a letter from the Save King George Hospital group.
Campaigner Cllr Andy Walker wrote: “While the government has been given permission to appeal, it might be feasible for the council to lodge a claim and adjourn it pending the outcome of the Lewisham case.
“A number of London councils bringing claims at the High Court over A&E downgrades would send a powerful message to the government that MPs and councillors campaigning for units to remain open should be listened to.”
The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and Lewisham Council took their case against the government to the High Court, where Justice Silber ruled that the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt MP, had acted outside his powers to cut A&E and maternity services.
The delivery ward at King George Hospital, in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, has already been shut and A&E is due for the axe in 2015.
Cllr Prince cautioned that King George’s case was “very different” to Lewisham.
He added: “If we were in the same situation as Lewisham I would be happy to challenge the cuts in court but I don’t think we are.
“It’s worth looking into – personally I think it would be great if there was a straw to clutch at.”
In the Lewisham case, the decision to downgrade services was considered unlawful because it was made to save cash at an unconnected trust.
Mr Hunt decided to follow an administrator’s recommendation to limit services at Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust, which was solvent and not under review, to stem losses at the unconnected South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which is being dissolved.
But the decision to close A&E and the labour unit at King George Hospital was made in 2009 by the former Health for North East London as part of a review of six hospitals in its cluster.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which also runs Queen’s Hospital in Romford, has huge debts estimated at £150million last year.
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley said that King George’s A&E would not close until Queen’s, which had another damning CQC report last month, could safely take the extra numbers.