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Stafford Hospital legal challenge: statement from Kate Godfrey

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: May 23, 2014

Stafford Hospital legal challenge by Labour's Kate Godfrey

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Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Stafford Kate Godfrey has lodged papers at Birmingham High Court applying for judicial review of the decision to downgrade Stafford Hospital.

The challenge questions Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to lay the final report of the Trust Special Administrators appointed to the Mid-Staffs NHS Trust before parliament.

In a statement placed before parliament on 26th February 2014, Jeremy Hunt accepted that the TSA report met required standards. By doing so, he accepted recommendations which includes the dissolution of the Mid-Staffs Trust and the loss of key services at Stafford Hospital including permanent downgrading of Accident and Emergency to a daytime service; loss of paediatric care and assessment; loss of the consultant led maternity services which account for the majority of births in Stafford, and downgrading of the critical care services which underpin clinical delivery across departments.

The changes amount to a serious downgrade of Stafford Hospital, which Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Health Andy Burnham called ‘a kick in the teeth to the people of Stafford.’

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In his statement Jeremy Hunt linked service closures at Stafford Hospital to ‘appalling failures of care in their local hospital,’ a statement which dismissed the work done to make Stafford one of the safest and best-performing hospitals in the region, and contrary to the accepted finding that services delivered through Stafford Hospital are ‘medically sustainable.’

Having reviewed the TSA report, Jeremy Hunt concluded that, ‘I am satisfied on each of the points set out in section 65KB of the legislation, and therefore support the action recommended by the TSAs. I am also satisfied that, in accordance with my request, the TSAs have undertaken a thorough analysis and taken account appropriately of the issues regarding the four tests for reconfiguration.’

The application for judicial review handed in by Labour PPC Kate Godfrey demonstrates that this is not correct: that the analysis carried out by the TSAs does not meet the tests set for their work, or their recommended actions meet the four tests for reconfiguration, and that Jeremy Hunt should accordingly not have accepted the TSA report, nor laid the conclusions of the TSAs before parliament.

Throughout the TSA review of Mid-Staffs the Administrators admitted a number of serious errors of fact, including use of incorrect case load data. At the same time as Jeremy Hunt accepted the TSA report as authoritative, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a parallel NHS England review of obstetric services, undercutting the acceptance that the Administrators had fulfilled their core brief to recommend minimal service disruption contingent with a stable financial model for delivery of healthcare across Staffordshire.

In filing the case for judicial review Kate Godfrey is supported by a clear majority of people living in Stafford, and follows the example set in Lewisham, where hospital campaigners were able to demonstrate that Jeremy Hunt had acted beyond his powers in approving the closure of similar key services.

Kate Godfrey comments:

‘I am leading this High Court battle as someone needs to take a lead and stand-up for Stafford Hospital.

‘50,000 people who marched in Stafford can’t be wrong. We knew from the beginning of the consultation period that the Administrators had a clear end in view. Sadly, that end was to downgrade our hospital, and to take away the wards that people here in Stafford most value. The consultation was an exercise in mockery - meetings had to be closed when too many people turned-up, and still between the draft and final reports there is hardly a paragraph which suggests the TSAs were prepared to listen to local people. The result is that despite repeated warnings by local people and staff working at the hospital, wrong figures and inaccurate findings have been use to support downgrade of our hospital.

‘A precedent is being set which should frighten anyone who values their local hospital. It frightens us. More than 90% of people in Stafford say they are very worried about the consequences of having to travel to Stoke to seek critical care.

‘In Stafford we’re the first after Lewisham, but we’re far from alone in facing financially motivated service reconfiguration. We’re here to show that local hospitals have a future, and in Stafford, it’s one for which we’ll fight.’

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