North West set Exchange Chambers has secured a judicial review for a group of local campaigners battling to save vital healthcare services.
Exchange tenant Anthony Eyers is acting pro bono for pressure group Health in Trafford, which is trying to have in-patient wards at Altrincham General Hospital reopened after they were closed by Trafford Healthcare Trust.
The trust has been steadily closing in-patient services at the hospital, claiming that patient safety was at risk, and attempting to cut the trust's £9m debt. The final two in-patient wards were shut in March this year.
Health in Trafford claims the decision is illegal because the trust has not carried out a public consultation.
Last week (19 June), the fight went to the High Court for an interim hearing. Mr Justice Collins ruled that the campaigners had an "arguable case" that closing the wards was unlawful.
The case will now go forward to a full judicial review in July or August. Collins J did not order that Trafford Healthcare Trust should immediately reopen the wards, but did ask the trust to consider its position ahead of the judicial review.
Eyers says he took on the case because, since he lives in the Trafford area, he has local connections. He became aware of the problem after campaign leader, former Altrincham General nurse Pat Morris, mounted her effort to keep Altrincham open, but failed to get legal aid help. Eyers, a criminal practitioner, is being assisted by his lawyer wife Finola who is drafting the arguments.
"Neither of us practices in judicial reviews but some help is better than no help," Eyers explains. "We believe that a decision has been made without public consultation on an issue that clearly has an immediate and long-term impact on the public."
He said the decision to close Altrincham to in-patient services had had a major effect on the local elderly population. Geriatric patients needing rehabiliation after surgery are now being treated many miles away from their homes, according to Eyers.
"There's a real paucity of in-patient care in the immediate area," he adds. "This is yet another example of the economics of healthcare leading to a huge, negative impact on those who really rely upon these services."
Eyers concludes: "What we have said is that we have to go back to the beginning and do things properly with a public consultation."