LEWISHAM Hospital campaigners and the council have beaten Jeremy Hunt again in the legal battle to save the area's health services.

Judges at the Court of Appeal today (October 29) upheld an earlier ruling that Mr Hunt did not have the power to downgrade A&E and maternity services at Lewisham.

News Shopper: Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice on October 28, picture courtesy of Simon Way

The original plan had been put forward by an administrator for the South London Healthcare Trust, which runs hospitals in neighbouring boroughs, after it went into administration last year.

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign chair Dr Louise Irvine told News Shopper: "I am ecstatic. It is fantastic news.

"This just shows the power of the community campaigning.

"It just shows people should never give up, never lose hope. You can make a difference to local services.

"We think it was really wrong - the government should never have taken this to appeal.

"Lewisham now needs a period of stability to get on with doing what we are supposed to do giving great care for patients."

She went on to say she was grateful for Lewisham Council's joint challenge which ran alongside Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.

News Shopper: Campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice on October 28, picture courtesy of Simon Way

Three Court of Appeal judges agreed with Mr Justice Silber’s July judgment that Mr Hunt's move to downgrade A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital was "unlawful".

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “This is a great result. I was confident of our case but I am still very relieved.

"This is another victory for each and every individual who signed a petition, who wrote to the Secretary of State and who marched through the streets of Lewisham.

"Together we have fought to assert the right of the people who use and deliver health services to have a real say in their future. And we have won.

“We knew the Secretary of State and the TSA were wrong in the beginning and today we all know they are still wrong now.

“We all now need to work together with our great local hospital and make sure it can continue to serve our community long into the future.”

Councillor Alan Hall said: "It's a good day. We've got a victory for Lewisham and we've been vindicated."

Save Lewisham Hospital campaigner Vicky Penner, who organised a Valentines Day mothers' protest outside the Department of Health, said: “We are absolutely thrilled and relieved that we have got justice for Lewisham twice now.

“And I personally was shocked that the government was arrogant and foolish enough to try and bully through the closure of our excellent and much-needed hospital.

“It is a disgraceful use of taxpayers’ money."

She warned about the government putting forward an amendment to the Care Bill which would give administrators sweeping powers to shut services in neighbouring hospitals.

The TSA's decision was quashed after it was found to have been acting ultra vires - as its powers were only over neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust and did not extend to Lewisham.

The Court of Appeal result came quicker than expected which a solicitor for Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign says is due to the government appeal having "no merit".

Campaign solicitor Rosa Curling, of Leigh Day Solicitors, said: “It seems the judges were clear in their minds that the government’s appeal had no merit. 

"And there was a need to provide Lewisham Hospital and the people of Lewisham with the decision as quickly as possible so that services could be maintained."

The government is currently consulting on whether campaign groups, like Save Lewisham Hospital, should be able to pursue judicial reviews.

Ms Curling said: “This show why it is so important that campaign  groups like Save Lewisham Hosptial can bring judicial reviews.

"It is a very important part of a democratic society.

“The government needs to be able to be challenged by the people.”

The reasons given for the judges' decision are expected to be released in a couple of weeks.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "I completely understand why the residents of Lewisham did not want any change in their A & E services, but my job as Health Secretary is to protect patients across South London - and doctors said these proposals would save lives.

"We are now looking at the law to make sure that at a time of great challenge the NHS is able to change and innovate when local doctors believe it is in the interests of patients."