Lewisham MPs challenge health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s power to close emergency department and maternity unit

Joan Ruddock, Jim Dowd and Heidi Alexander submitting a petition to save Lewisham hospital to Downing Street in December. Pic: Thea Foslie

Fourteen south London MPs met with Jeremy Hunt yesterday to challenge whether the NHS Trust Special Administrator actually has the power to make recommendations that would see the closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E department.

Heidi Alexander, Labour MP for Lewisham East, met with the secretary of state for health last night to summarise the legal and financial objections to the recommendations of the TSA, Matthew Kershaw. His proposals would see the closure of the hospital’s emergency department and maternity services be reduced to a midwifery led birthing unit.

According to Jim Dowd, Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge, Hunt said in the meeting that he would “re-examine the legal case” surrounding Kershaw’s  proposals for reducing the debt of the South London Healthcare Trust. Alexander took to Twitter that night, saying that Hunt “reiterated that he is seeking fresh legal advice”.

In a document prepared by Alexander, Dowd and Dame Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, a case was set out for Hunt as to why he should reject recommendation number five, which will directly affect services at the hospital if implemented.

The document said: “We question whether the Trust Special Administrator has the power, in law, to make recommendations which affect Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust, and whether the secretary of state, in response to these recommendations, has the power to take a decision which results in the loss of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital – a solvent, successful hospital which is not part of the Trust to which the TSA was appointed.”

Dowd described Kershaw as “shamelessly brazen” following the meeting. Dowd said: “Mr Hunt was predictably non-committal at this stage, simply maintaining that he would look carefully at the plans and re-examine the legal case surrounding the TSA’s meddling with a hospital outside his remit.

“Matthew Kershaw and Ms Hannah Farrar from the NHS board [both present at the meeting] were shamelessly brazen in their refusal to listen to any alternative suggestions and their dismissive arrogance showed exactly why they were chosen to ensure the destruction of Lewisham Hospital.”

In the document handed to Hunt, the consultation period was described as a “back-door approach to service re-configuration” and suggested that if every recommendation, except for recommendation five, was implemented then “significant savings can be made without closing emergency and maternity services in Lewisham”.

Dowd went on to describe the consultation process, which ran from November 2 to December 13, as “a farce”. He said: “No wonder that the BBC Question Time panel in New Cross last week were uniformly aghast by the sheer lunacy of closing a solvent, high performing service to bail out its bankrupt neighbour.”

The three Lewisham MPs also argued that the service reconfiguration proposed by the TSA fails all four tests set by the Government, which are: support from GP Commissioners, strengthened public and patient involvement, clarity on the clinical evidence base, and consistency with current and prospective patient choice. The document concluded that the proposals to shut the A&E and reduce maternity services are “dangerous and ill-conceived”.

South London MPs will join residents in protest against the recommendations on January 26. For more information on upcoming Save Lewisham Hospital Campaigns, click here.


  1. Sue January 16, 2013
  2. Arthur Shaw January 16, 2013

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