Campaigners lose challenge against decision to downgrade emergency surgery at Wythenshawe Hospital

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The doctors behind the Keep Wythenshawe Special campaign today said they were “disappointed” after a judicial review upheld a decision to downgrade Wythenshawe Hospital.

The medics had applied for a review into the decision not to make the hospital a specialist site for emergency surgery as part of the Healthier Together shake-up, claiming it to be “unlawful, unreasonable and illogical”.

But the Hon Mr Justice Ian Dove this morning ruled that there were no grounds to challenge the decision, saying there was “no legal error in the decision reached by the Healthier Together CiC”.

The full ruling:

Judicial review into Healthier Together plans for Wythenshawe Hospital – Final Judgement

The Keep Wythenshawe Special campaign group, comprising hospital staff and their supporters, said it was “naturally disappointed” by the ruling.

It means it is now highly likely that residents in Altrincham and neighbouring towns who require emergency medicine and specialist abdominal surgery procedures will be taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The group added: “We want to reiterate that patient safety and benefit for the people who need our hospital was our ONLY reason for mounting this campaign, which we self-funded and has not, as some would have people believe, been paid for out of NHS money.

“We remain anxious that Wythenshawe Hospital will not remain a centre of excellence and a specialist site for general surgery.

“This is important because our hospital has many specialist regional services that require general surgeons on site who are used to looking after patients who come to us, not just from South Manchester but from all over Greater Manchester and the wider region.”

Over 1000 people attended a Keep Wythenshawe Special protest march in November
Over 1000 people attended a Keep Wythenshawe Special protest march in November

It said it would take time to consider its next move and would make an announcement “in due course”.

Barry Clare, chair of the hospital’s trust board, sought to allay the doctors’ concerns and said the trust continued to support the Healthier Together initiative.

He said: “Due to the extensive range of services that Wythenshawe Hospital provides, there is a need for strong, on-site emergency general surgery. Our work will continue with the already established Clinical Leadership Group which is made up of representatives of senior clinicians from UHSM, CMFT and our commissioners, to address the remaining clinical concerns and develop solutions designed to accommodate them during the implementation stage of the project.

“It is evident that a huge amount of pride and passion exists for Wythenshawe Hospital from our patients, our staff and our local community; this is all in recognition of our fantastic team and is a testament to the excellent care we strive to provide to our patients.”

The doctors’ campaign had been backed by local politicians including Graham Brady, Altrincham and Sale West MP.

He said: “The judicial review should never have been necessary in the first place, but all of us should be grateful that the clinicians at Wythenshawe were prepared to put their own resources into this effort to ensure that the best level of services would be maintained at the hospital.

Local MP Graham Brady
Local MP Graham Brady

“It is disappointing that the Healthier Together proposition has not been overturned by the judge, but I hope that the NHS in Greater Manchester will understand the depth of feeling and the absolute priority of arriving at a new settlement which reassures clinicians and the public that we we will retain the necessary level of general surgery to underpin its world leading specialist services.”

The Healthier Together review, carried out by NHS bosses and announced last July, saw doctors vote unanimously to add Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport to Manchester Royal Infirmary, Salford Royal and Royal Oldham as “super hospitals” in the area.

It’s all part of the health devolution deal announced for Greater Manchester last year, and will inevitably comprise a significant restructuring of the way health services are delivered across the region.

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