NHS campaigners are fighting Cornwall Council’s decision to set up a contentious new form of local NHS and social care organisation called an Accountable Care System (ACS) that will shadow the existing organisations, with a view to taking over in April 2019.
After months of protests, campaigners have now turned to the law. On their behalf, public interest lawyers LeighDay are writing to Cornwall Council and other bodies involved in the ACS set up, saying that they should halt the proposal to establish the Accountable Care System until a Judicial Review into the lawfulness of these new organisations is completed.
Together with 999 Call for the NHS (the Darlo Mums’ campaign group that in 2014 organised the 300 mile People’s March for the NHS from Jarrow to London), Leigh Day is bringing a Judicial Review of the new Accountable Care Organisation contract, on the grounds that it is unlawful. The case will be heard on 24th April.
Cornish campaigners say that for Cornwall Council to press on with setting up an ACS would be irresponsible and a potential waste of time and resources, if upcoming Judicial Reviews of Accountable Care Organisations find them to be illegal. They are aiming to ask a judge to approve an injunction to halt and desist until the Judicial Reviews have been settled.
Other areas have already delayed setting up Accountable Care Organisations and Systems until the Judicial Reviews are over. Dudley and Greater Manchester, that were to have been the first pilot Accountable Care Organisations in England, have announced they will not now set up in April.
NHS campaigners were shocked that Cornwall Council’s Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny committee Extraordinary Meeting on Monday 5th February would consider a report from the the Accountable Care System Inquiry, which has been at work for the past three months, without having read it. The Agenda showed that the ACS Inquiry would only present the Report at the meeting.
After Campaigners asked how this could possibly be acceptable and pointed out that this amounted to a breach of Scrutiny Councillors’ duty to investigate whether proposed significant changes to Cornwall’s NHS and social care services are in the interests of the public, the Council belatedly uploaded the documents to the Scrutiny webpage this morning, Saturday 3rd Feb.
But papers are supposed to be available to the public, media and Councillors 7 days before a meeting – not one and half days in advance over a weekend, when Councillors could reasonably be forgiven for not noticing. To draw this to the Council’s attention, the person to email is Leanne Martin, Democratic and Governance Officer.
999 Call for the NHS campaigner, Steven Carne (originally from PZ/St.Ives) said:
“We fully support campaigners in Cornwall and hope that the Scrutiny committee will understand and accept their duty to properly scrutinise the ACS Inquiry Report. If and when they do, they might realise that this is really not the way to update the NHS into a modern, responsive, universal public service that honours the founding principles of the NHS that have served us all well for generations. NHS campaigners have everything to win and we will all fight on together.”
Neil Foss, a 38 Degrees campaigner who is working with LeighDay, said,
“We had a protest last Wednesday outside the ACS committee meeting. On Monday we really need to let them know our feelings about the secret unpublished report which they will only see for the first time in the meeting and which they are using to make their decision.
It doesn’t really surprise me as they have retreated into meeting in secret and they got slaughtered for their Sustainability and Transformation Plan consultation. They are shutting down all consultation and communication.”
The protests have arisen because Accountable Care Systems are a new way of organising local NHS and Social Care organisations, that are based on a business model used by the USA’s Medicare/Medicaid system. This only provides a limited range of healthcare for people who are too poor to pay for private health insurance.
If introduced into the English NHS, campaigners say ACSs would restrict access to NHS treatments, speed up the creation of a two tier health system where people with money pay to go private and the rest make do with a limited NHS, and increase privatisation.