JUST when you thought it was safe to go back to hospital, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is heading back to court.

Having dusted himself down from last month's legal drubbing over Lewisham Hospital, Mr Hunt has decided to throw more taxpayers' money at the issue by launching an appeal.

The news came in the same week that campaigners announced a victory parade to celebrate the High Court ruling.

Protesters and Lewisham Council emerged victorious after the decision to downgrade Lewisham's A&E and maternity services was quashed in a comprehensive ruling by Judge Justice Silber.

But the Department of Health, which was backing the downgrades to cut costs at the failed South London Healthcare Trust, was given three weeks to appeal that ruling - and Mr Hunt waited until the final day to do so.

An incredible 16,331 had signed an online petition urging Mr Hunt not to pursue the matter further.

But the move means campaigners will now have to spend more money on legal fees while the financial standing of neighbouring health services like Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, remain in limbo.

Speaking on behalf of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, Tony O’Sullivan said: "We are disappointed by the Secretary of State’s decision to launch an appeal.

"However, we are confident that the strength of our case will be upheld at appeal.

"Our commitment to defend the excellent services provided by Lewisham Hospital is unwavering."

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: "I'm hugely disappointed that he has seen fit to prolong the uncertainty about the future of Lewisham Hospital.

"But I'm confident that the case that was made so successfully before will be sustained going forward.

"We always knew the campaign would need to continue and I look forward to working with colleagues across Lewisham to make sure that local views are heard very clearly over the coming months."

A victory parade organised by campaigners leaving from Loampit Vale on September 14 at noon is still planned to go ahead.

Visit savelewishamhospital.com for more on the campaign.

Lewisham unites against Hunt... again

Lib Dem mayoral candidate Councillor Duwayne Brooks said: "I am extremely disappointed in the department of healths decision to appeal against the high courts decision which we all believe is the right one for the residents of Lewisham.

"Even though I have not seen their grounds for appeal, (which maybe rejected)  I would like to assure all residents who depend on and support Lewisham hospital. I will continue to fight to keep our important and most valued services here in Lewisham."

Leader of Lewisham Labour Councillor Alan Hall said: "We'd urge the government not to use any more public money but to concentrate instead on getting Lewisham's health services right.

"We're ready for a fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary."

John Hamilton from People Before Profit slammed the decision, and also called for the merger of Lewisham NHS Trust and Queen Elizabeth Hospital - still on track for October 1 - to be abandoned and PFI charges annulled.