Stepping Hill specialist hospital status decision upheld after legal challenge

Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport
Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport

A decision to grant ‘super hospital’ status to Stepping Hill in Stockport has been upheld following a legal challenge.

Senior clinical staff at Wythenshawe Hospital had challenged last year’s decision to name Stepping Hill as a specialist centre for emergency abdominal surgery, as part of the Healthier Together shake-up of NHS services across Greater Manchester.

The decision meant High Peak patients wouldn’t need to travel into Manchester for this kind of care.

Campaign group Keep Wythenshawe Special was granted a judicial review into the process of how the decision was made in an attempt to force a rethink, but following a two-day hearing before Christmas the Hon Mr Justice Ian Dove has today (Thursday) concluded the appeal be dismissed.

Justice Dove said he was satisfied that there was “no legal error in the decision reached by the Healthier Together CiC”.

Dr Jane Eddleston, Healthier Together’s Chief Medical Advisory, said: “We are delighted to be able to press ahead with the Healthier Together programme so that we can deliver improved care for the people of Greater Manchester and those that use our services from surrounding areas.”

In his ruling, the judge acknowledged the proceedings had been brought before the court and defended out of a passionate concern, on all sides, for the health and wellbeing of all those who depend on healthcare provisions in Greater Manchester, whether or not they reside there.

Ann Barnes, chief executive of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stepping Hill Hospital, said: “We are understandably pleased that the judge has upheld the Healthier Together decision to choose Stepping Hill Hospital as the fourth site for emergency and specialist abdominal surgery and the supporting emergency department services.

“The unanimous decision by the 12 Greater Manchester clinical commissioning groups in July 2015 followed a very robust process. It was undertaken by 12 doctors who are experts in their field, and the Healthier Together model was developed and endorsed by over 400 senior doctors across Greater Manchester.

“Stepping Hill Hospital treats patients from across Stockport, the High Peak and beyond, but this public decision was never just about location. We have rightly stressed the importance of having a ‘specialist’ hospital within a critical travel time distance, but we also have excellent results and are well placed to develop these services.”

The Healthier Together project looked at which hospitals across Greater Manchester should continue undertaking emergency surgery. Three out of the four specialist sites were chosen in early 2015, with Stepping Hill unveiled in July as the fourth to provide emergency medicine and specialist abdominal surgery.

This prompted the legal challenge from the Keep Wythenshawe Special group, arguing such a move would “downgrade” Wythenshawe and was “unlawful”.

Dr Colin Wasson, head of surgery at Stepping Hill Hospital, added: “Healthier Together has only ever been about what is best for patients. Whilst we recognise that none of the hospitals in Greater Manchester currently meet all of the standards, we already meet a significant proportion and will now work with our partner organisations to deliver on all of them.”