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Council threatens judicial review over possible A&E closure

Exclusive Council leaders have threatened the health secretary with legal action if he goes through with proposals to close Lewisham A&E department in a dramatic intervention that could influence the outcome of a seminal test case for CCGs, Pulse has learned.

Jeremy Hunt is set to make a decision on 1 February about proposals made by the trust special administrator (TSA) to close Lewisham A&E. The administrator was appointed to look into the failing South London Healthcare NHS Trust under the unsustainable provider regime legislation.

The proposals for Lewisham have been opposed by all GPs in the borough and by Lewisham CCG, whose chair Dr Helen Tattersfield warned that the arrangements threaten the autonomy of CCGs.

A letter obtained by Pulse, dated 22 January, from Lewisham mayor Sir Steve Bullock to Mr Hunt, says: ‘I very much hope that you will not decide to implement the Lewisham proposals. If you do, I must put you on notice that the council may, if so advised, apply for judicial review of any part of your decision which seeks to implement them.’

Click here to read letter from Lewisham Council to Jeremy Hunt

The council contends that the administrator went outside its remit by proposing to reconfigure Lewisham hospital.

The letter states: ‘The council’s firm view, on legal advice, is that the TSA has no power, under the relevant statutory regime, to consider, or to make recommendations to you, about anything other than the affairs of the trust to which you appointed him.’

It points to the Department of Health’s ‘statutory advice for trust special administrators’, which stated: ‘The regime does not provide a back-door approach to reconfiguration.’

The mayor also quoted Prime Minister David Cameron who said there would be ‘no reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners’.

Mr Hunt told Parliament on 8 January that he had taken legal advice on the TSA’s remit, which stated that the administrator could look at the broader area, but added he was taking fresh legal advice on the matter.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Pulse that the situation was a ‘nonsense’.

He added: ‘Powers are being used there for which they were not intended. I know that because I brought those powers on to the statute book.’

Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham, said: ‘The reason that [the unsustainable provider regime legislation] was originally brought in by Labour in 2006 was so you could go in and troubleshoot a very small, narrow issue about one local trust that was in trouble.

‘It was never meant for reconfigurations. It is now being brought in not only for reconfigurations but to bypass all the checks and balances.’