An elated crowd rallied outside Lewisham Hospital in south east London this evening, Wednesday, to celebrate a court victory against the Tories.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt planned to cut services at the hospital including maternity and A&E. But Mr Justice Silber today quashed the decision.
Michael, a waste manager in Lewisham, brought along a refuse truck decorated with Save Lewisham Hospital banners.
“I’m ecstatic,” he told Socialist Worker. “My son was born in this hospital and I’ve used the A&E. It just goes to show that if you stick together, you can change things.”
There was a constant stream of hooting from passing cars, buses and ambulances. Many of those at the rally could barely contain their emotion at the news that their campaigning had actually won.
“I feel privileged to be part of this,” said Yvonne from the Lewisham Pensions Forum. “I feel like I’m dreaming. I hope it will set a precedent and give other people confidence to fight cuts.”
Nurses, porters and health workers came out on their breaks to join the rally. One senior nurse said, “We were on the ward when the doctor came round and told us the news. Everybody cheered. We couldn’t believe we’d won.”
Osbourne, an admin worker in the medical records department, added, “There was quite a celebration in the hospital today. Everybody’s talking about it. We didn’t think it would happen – everyone’s so happy.”
The government had appointed a trust special administrator (TSA) to look into South London Healthcare Trust under a new procedure called The Unsustainable Providers Regime.
The trust reported a deficit of £65 million in the year to March 2012 and had debts relating to private finance initiatives.
Lewisham Hospital isn’t part of South London Healthcare Trust. But the TSA recommended cuts to it anyway.
Judge Silber ruled that the TSA and health secretary were only entitled to make recommendations and decisions based on the review of South London Healthcare Trust relating to hospitals within that trust.
He also said the lack of support for the cuts among local GP commissioners was “an additional reason why the decision of the Secretary of State cannot stand”.
He ruled that the effect of this is that the recommendations and decision relating to services at Lewisham Hospital “must be quashed”.
The government can appeal the decision and the fight to defend the NHS is far from over. Speakers stressed the importance of continuing the campaigns and marching on the Tory party conference in Manchester on 29 September.
But Lewisham shows that it’s worth fighting – and that sometimes we can win.
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