STEPHEN HAWKING was among claimants to secure an early victory in the High Court today against a “devastating” planned restructuring of the NHS.
A judge agreed to limit the costs of their judicial review of accountable care organisations being given responsibility for providing NHS services, which the renowned astrophysicist and his fellow campaigners say is unlawful.
They submit the proposals would see decisions made “under a contract with a single entity that has no statutory function and could take any form (including private, for-profit).”
Peter Mant, for the claimants, said they would have to drop the case if their potential liabilities were not limited, which would be “contrary to the rule of law and the interest of justice.”
He said the case concerned “a policy where entirely new entities, which could be wholly private and not subject to any statutory controls, checks or balances … will be making most decisions about allocation of NHS resources and design of care.”
The policy seeks “to push the boundaries of legislation” and could affect “the overall quality” of NHS services, Mr Mant said.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt conceded in January that there would be a public consultation, but Mr Mant said the court should determine the lawfulness of the policy before “an expensive public consultation exercise” was held.
Mr Mant said the claimants were pursuing the case “only for the public good,” adding that it was “difficult to envisage more appropriate or more responsible people” to bring it.
The court heard crowdfunding has raised £160,000, but another £100,000 was needed to cover adverse costs.
The latest campaign has raised £80,000, but requires another £20,000 by March 1 or the money pledged will be lost. You can donate at mstar.link/JR4NHS
Rose Grogan, for NHS England, said the judicial review was “based on a misunderstanding of what the defendants are proposing,” which was still in draft form, and claimed their concerns could “just as readily be resolved” through the public consultation.
She added that they were “wealthy claimants” who had the means to fund the case.
But Ms Justice Cheema-Grubb said she was satisfied the case would be dropped without a costs capping order and that it was “unreasonable to expect the claimants to bear the burden” of risk.
The claimants’ “exposure” to costs if they lose the claim were limited by the High Court to £80,000 for each claimant.
The two-day judicial review will be heard from May 23.
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