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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Victory for save Lewisham A and E but wider battle continues

Well done to all involved in save Lewisham A and E on their victory today in the appeals court. Much solidarity and congratulations to you but this can not be a time to rest on our laurels and we must be aware of the wider battle against our NHS still going on out there from this government. "The Appeal Court today ruled against government attempts to close most of the popular Lewisham Hospital. But even as campaigners celebrate, MPs prepare to vote on whether to legalise such fast-track hospital closures elsewhere. http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/girl save our hospital.png The Appeal Court today dismissed a government appeal in the long running battle over substantial cuts to Lewisham Hospital. The ruling will be deservedly celebrated in the streets of Lewisham, where “Save Lewisham A&E” campaign posters have plastered the streets for months. But it also raises the stakes on new government attempts to legalise these kind of “accelerated” hospital cuts elsewhere. MPs will vote on the new move next month, in an amendment hastily tagged onto the Care Bill. This is something we must make ourselves aware of very quickly. The government are not just going to sit back and accept these decisions lightly they will come back and this amendment to the law will allow them to do just that. During the summer the High Court ruled that health secretary Jeremy Hunt acted unlawfully in trying to close Lewisham’s A&E and large chunks of its services, as part of an Administration process that was dealing with a different, neighbouring Hospital Trust, South London. Today the government lost an appeal against that ruling. Lewisham itself is hopefully now safe. But the government - perhaps anticipating this defeat - has a plan B that will make it far easier for them to close or downgrade other hospitals across the country in future, without the consent or support of local people or GPs. The government has added a last minute amendment to Care Bill to legalise much more widespread use of fast-track hospital closures. The amendment will - if passed in the Commons next month - allow the government to accept recommendations from Administrators appointed to take over clinically or financially struggling Trusts, to cut or downgrade nearby hospitals that are part of other Trusts. Closure decisions - which could be taken even where these nearby hospitals themselves are successful and popular - will be able to be taken with minimal public consultation - a mere 40 days, compared to the normal 2 years or more. Introducing the amendment in the Commons earlier this month, Earl Howe admitted the amendment drastically reduced “the statutory obligations of commissioners to involve and consult patients and the public in planning and making service changes” and extended to even successful trusts an "accelerated process" with "no provision for referral to local authority scrutiny" or need to have regard to the views of local people and clinicians. Dr David Nicholl, Consultant Neurologist in Birmingham, and on the council of the Royal College of Physicians said “speaking personally I can see that this legislation has the potential to threaten any hospital, with minimal consultation" He urged other medical professionals to raise concerns with their Royal Colleges, adding “it is vital any reconfigurations are clinically led. This judgement has shown that the special administrator approach is totally the wrong one." The Royal College of Physicians have already raised concerns over the clause in the Health Service Journal, saying "Any decisions affecting the broader health economy should be clinically-led, should be driven by the best interests of patients and should involve the wider health community from the beginning". Vicky Penner, former patient at Lewisham and a member of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, warned “The Government's attempt to rush through an amendment to the Care Bill through Parliament which would give Trust Special Administrators, and in turn the Government, unlimited geographical power without proper consultation means that no hospital in the country will be safe. “It seems that if the Government cannot win in Court, they will bully their plans through Parliament, showing their utter contempt for normal people and democracy.”" Democracy in action from this group of toffs who claim to rule us today. Its time they go along with the system they represent. Quotes and extracts from the fantastic Caroline Molloy at open democracy site http://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/victory-for-lewisham-hospital-but-governments-plan-b-threatens-100s-more-hosp

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