A campaign to save a local A&E department took on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt — and won.

Save Lewisham Hospital was formed after the health minister opted to downgrade and close full emergency care services at the South East London hospital.

Following the collapse of South London Healthcare NHS Trust in 2012, a government report suggested that the trusts's three hospitals should be absorbed by neighbouring trusts.

The trust had fallen into £65m debt, largely due to a PFI.

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It was also proposed that the A&E at University Hospital Lewisham, not one of the trust's former hospitals, should be closed.

Had the plan gone ahead 750,000 people would have had to share one accident and emergency department, four miles away at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich.

Mr Hunt ruled that University Hospital Lewisham would be downgraded and its A&E closed.

The minister said the cuts were necessary as South London Healthcare NHS Trust had been losing more than £1m every week.

But in 2013, following a legal challenge by Save Lewisham Hospital and Lewisham Council, Mr Hunt's decision was overturned by the High Court.

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The court ruled Mr Hunt had acted unlawfully in trying to use University Hospital Lewisham to reduce the debts of another NHS trust.

Mr Justice Silber said Mr Hunt's recommendations had to be backed by local GP commissioners.

But he said it was clear that the Lewisham GP commissioners had not supported the proposals.

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He added: "On the contrary, they strongly opposed them, although those GP commissioners in a number of surrounding but different areas were happy with them.

"I considered that it was the absence of support from local GP commissioners which constituted an additional reason why the decision of the Secretary of State cannot stand."