Leeds Court hearing for campaign group’s Judicial Review of NHS England’s Accountable Care Organisation contract

A judge has granted permission for  national campaign group 999 Call for the NHS to bring a Judicial Review of NHS England’s draft Accountable Care Organisation contract. The group believe this is not only unlawful under current NHS legislation, but would threaten patient safety standards and limit the range of available treatments. The case will be held in Leeds High Court on 24th April.

‘999 Call for the NHS’ and internationally recognised public law firm Leigh Day are launching the third and final stage of their crowdfund at 6pm on 12 January, in order to cover all the costs of bringing the Judicial Review, and are appealing for £12,000. This amount, when added to existing funds donated by hundreds of generous members of the public in 2017, will cover the £37,000 cost of the Judicial Review.

The link to crowdfund is:  CrowdJustice – Healthcare4All -Stage 3 Please give what you can, from 6pm on Friday 12th January.

On Saturday 13th January, 999 Call for the NHS (Calderdale and Kirklees) are holding a street stall on Kings Street, Huddersfield, between WH Smith and Boots, to inform people about the Judicial Review. They will also be asking the public for any donations towards the costs of the Judicial Review.

Recognising that it is in the public interest to establish if the Accountable Care Organisation contract is lawful or not,  the Judge has awarded 999 Call for the NHS a capped costs order of £25K. This limits the costs that the campaign group would have to pay NHS England, were they to lose the case.

The campaign group – originally well known as the Darlo Mums who organised a 300 mile Jarrow to London People’s March for the NHS in 2014, culminating in a rally in Trafalgar Square attended by 20,000 people – are challenging NHS England’s introduction of a model contract for use by new local NHS and Social Care organisations, known as Accountable Care Organisations (ACO).

999 Call for the NHS (Calderdale and Kirklees) was set up after NHS campaign groups from across both areas marched together from Halifax to Wakefield, to join the main national march.

The local group has campaigned continuously over the past three years to protect both Huddersfield and Halifax District General Hospitals from proposed cuts and closures.  Over the last two years it has also worked with NHS campaign groups across the area, to resist the threats to the West Yorkshire and Harrogate region’s NHS and social care, from huge systemic cuts and changes imposed by NHS England.

There are now proposals to set up Accountable Care Systems in West Yorkshire.

These new forms of local NHS and social care organisations are based on the business model used by the USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system, which provides state-funded “managed care” for the elderly and people who are too poor to pay for private health insurance. “Managed care”  involves a variety of mechanisms used by managers of American healthcare companies to get doctors to avoid expensive forms of treatment.

In granting permission for the Judicial Review the Judge commented that it would not consider the merits or demerits of the ACO model, but would focus on the lawfulness of the method for paying Accountable Care Organisations.

The campaign group believe that this new contract is unlawful under current NHS legislation. And they are concerned that the contract, if implemented, would threaten patient safety and force hospitals and doctors to restrict treatment, making decisions based on money not clinical judgement.

This is because the new ACO contract does not link payment to the number of patients treated and/or the complexity of the medical treatment they need, as required by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, but is based on a fixed budget for an area’s population. This budget would be geared to helping to meet the £22bn+ funding shortfall by 2021 that the government is imposing on the NHS in England.

The group say that the current lack of a legal framework for Accountable Care Organisations – and in particular the way they would be paid to provide local NHS and social care services – is simply not compatible with democratic control and oversight of the resources and future of our biggest public service. And the government has backtracked from its 2017 Manifesto promise of new legislation for this radical shake up of the NHS and social care.

Jenny Shepherd, one of the original group who marched from Halifax to Wakefield, said,

“In 2014, 20,000 people felt so strongly about the devastating effects of cuts and privatisation on the NHS that they joined the end of the 300 mile march to London to take a stand against it and spread the word.

Please join us again, in marching on the courts to challenge the Accountable Care Organisations contact.  Call for the NHS (Calderdale and Kirklees) are closely involved in the Judicial Review. This is a big step for us and we need your support. We believe  it is vital to determine if the new contract is lawful or not. We all have to fight this together for the sake of the nation’s health and democracy.”

Advanced Nurse Practitioner Andrea English said,

“As a healthcare practitioner, speaking out against the system does not come naturally. But when it comes to defending comprehensive healthcare,  there is no other choice – in fact it’s my duty of care.

The direction of change under ACO’s, the erosion of the ‘right to healthcare’ and the disconnect between the stated aims and the gaps in planned provision truly make me fear for the future of healthcare in England and for the NHS I believe in. This is why I support this Judicial Review and encourage others to do the same.”

Please give whatever you can afford to the CrowdJustice appeal, this is to help to protect comprehensive healthcare for all – which we all need at some point in our lives.https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/healthcare4all-stage3 More info about the 999 Call for the NHS Judicial Review,here.

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