STRUCTURE: Lewisham Council has voted unanimously to seek judicial review of the trust special administration process that saw Lewisham Hospital recommended for downgrade.

The south London council will now proceed with the legal action it threatened after Jeremy Hunt said he would accept the special administrator’s recommendation to downgrade services at the site.

Lewisham Council gave the secretary of state until last Friday, 22 February, to respond to its letter setting out the legal grounds for a challenge.

Special administrator Matthew Kershaw was appointed to look at neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust, which has financial problems. He recommended the trust be dissolved and part of it merged with Lewisham Healthcare Trust.

He also said as part of the process accident and emergency and maternity services at Lewisham should be downgraded.

However, Mr Hunt said instead of the proposed urgent care centre replacement for Lewisham’s A&E department, he would order a “smaller unit” with “24/7 senior medical cover”. He said he had made this recommendation after receiving advice from NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, although the basis on which he did this is unclear.

Lewisham Council’s challenge is based on the case that the special administrator acted outside of his powers in making recommendations about Lewisham, and that the health secretary acted outside his powers in accepting them.

They also argue the government’s “four tests” policy for major reconfigurations has not been met in Lewisham.

One of the tests is that any reconfiguration must have the support of local GPs, and Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group have actively opposed the plan.