STRUCTURE: Lewisham Council has given Jeremy Hunt a deadline of February 22 to backtrack on the downgrade of Lewisham Hospital or face a judicial review.

The local authority has written to the secretary of state saying the trust special administrator overstepped his remit in recommending the downgrade of services there, when he had been asked to come up with a solution for the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust.

The 33-page legal letter argues that because the special administrator was acting outside of his powers in making the recommendation the secretary of state was acting outside of his powers in approving it.

Mr Hunt’s decision was announced on January 31 and was the first use of the failure regime powers in the 2006 Health Service Act.

The news comes as Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced that commissioners had withdrawn plans for a downgrade of A&E services at a hospital in their borough.

A press release issued by Hammersmith and Fulham said: “The council has secured a change in tack on emergency services at the hospital - which will retain a 24/7 emergency facility with ability to admit patients.

“This will be virtually identical to Lewisham’s re-modelled A&E and will continue to treat the vast majority of people who currently make their own way to A&E. Only the most complicated emergencies, including blue light emergencies, will go to specialist centres.”

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh’s advice to Jeremy Hunt said that with “24/7 senior medical cover” Lewisham A&E would be able to see around three-quarters of the current attendess at the trust.

The specifications and staffing model for the “smaller” A&E and the effect on co-dependent services within Lewisham Healthcare Trust are still not known.

The news comes one day after a cross-party group of MPs called for a moratorium on A&E downgrades.

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