LEWISHAM Council has threatened legal action in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, unless the Health Secretary reverses his downgrade of Lewisham Hospital's A&E and maternity services.

It gives Mr Hunt until February 22 to withdraw his decision. If he does not then the council will seek a judicial review. The council has also sent a similar letter to the trust special administrator (TSA) Matthew Kershaw, who made the recommendations.

The letter states: "The council’s firm view, on legal advice, is that the TSA had no power under the relevant statutory regime, to consider, or to make recommendations to you about, services provided by any NHS body other than South London Healthcare, the trust to which you appointed him.

"It follows from this that you, in making a decision on the TSA’s recommendations, had no power to make a decision which purports to affect the operation of Lewisham Hospital."

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: "Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt’s decision to press ahead with the downgrade of Lewisham Hospital’s maternity and emergency services was a kick in the stomach for Lewisham’s community.

"The plans were roundly rejected by local people, by the staff who work in the hospital and by local GPs. We will now fight to save Lewisham Hospital by challenging this decision through the courts." 

The council has also set up a Legal Challenge Fund to allow people in the community to contribute to the action.

Donations can be made online.

All the money given will go to offset legal costs. In the event that the court awards costs in the council’s favour or if for any other reason donations are not required then it has pledged to donate the money to local charity Children First Lewisham.

Sir Steve said: "People in the community have already asked me how they could contribute to fighting this decision.

"That is why we have set up a Legal Challenge Fund to enable people to make their own financial contribution to the action.”

Lewisham Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Maines said: "We support the council in taking this action."

"We have always shared the believe that Lewisham should not have been part of the TSA's review into South London Health Trust.

"We also believe that several issues raised by Jeremy Hunt in his statement are questionable and should be grounds for the decision about the future of Lewisham Hospital to be reversed.

"We are encouraging residents and supporters to give generously to the public fund"