THE Court of Appeal’s ruling yesterday that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not have legal power to implement cuts at Lewisham Hospital in south-east London, is a victory for the whole UK working class which is absolutely determined to defend its hard won NHS and its equally hard won Welfare State.
During the summer, a High Court judge ruled that Hunt acted outside his powers when he decided Lewisham emergency and maternity units should be cut back.
The rejection of Hunt’s appeal took just 5 minutes of deliberation by the three appeal judges who upheld the earlier ruling that Hunt’s cuts and closures were only to be implemented in the South East London Health Trust which Lewisham is not part of.
Rosa Curling who represented the campaign group said: ‘We are absolutely delighted with the Court of Appeal’s decision.
‘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.’
Other campaigners are pointing out that the Government are now planning to change the law to allow them to do exactly the same thing they have been found guilty of in the case of Lewisham right across the UK – that is close NHS hospitals at will, just because they want to!
This emerged towards the end of business on 15th October, Shadow Health Minister in the Lords, Lord Philip Hunt tweeted that ‘Govt just put down amendment to Care Bill re Trust Special Administrators. Will make easier in future to close down A&E depts like Lewisham’.
Next week the government will attempt to introduce a sweeping law which, if it succeeds in making its way intact through the Lords and the House of Commons, will mean quite simply that absolutely no English hospital will be safe from closure.
New expansive powers would be attached to every ‘administrator’ appointed to any trust assessed – on pretty broad criteria – as failing.
Crucially, the powers would for the first time extend to any hospital trust unfortunate enough to find itself neighbouring a failing trust. The clauses give the ‘Trust Special Administrator’ the powers to dictate cuts or even hospital closures to other NHS trusts, rather than just the one to which they are appointed.
In the Lewisham case, the judge, Justice Silber, had ruled that Hunt and his administrator Matthew Kershaw had no right to use the ‘special administration process’ in a neighbouring NHS trust – South London – to meddle in the affairs of unrelated Lewisham Hospital – and to ignore the view of local GPs.
Essentially this Care Bill amendment would be a mandate to cut or close hospital provision anywhere in the country in any way the government sees fit.
As health minister Earl Howe states in his letter – this legislation would ‘Put beyond doubt that the Trust Special Administrator has power to make recommendation, and the Secretary of State/ Monitor the power to take decisions, that affect providers other than the one to which the administrator was appointed’.
Howe added: ‘this regime is one way in which decisive action can be taken to deal with NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts that are unsustainable in their current form.’
The government is now seeking to take decisive action to shut down the NHS, an action worthy of a banana republic dictatorship that will be bullet proof as far as the ‘fairest’ bourgeois court is concerned.
This rams home the almost self-evident truth that what is required to save the NHS in the UK is ‘regime change’ and a fundamental regime change at that, not just a face lift with Miliband replacing Cameron.
The trade union leaders must now be called to order by their members and told that they must take action to defend the NHS or quit.
The leaders must be told that the unions must support and organise occupations to stop hospital closures and call a general strike to defend them by bringing down the Tory-led coalition and bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies. This is the way forward. It must be taken NOW!