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Health Service Government faces legal challenge over Accountable Care Organisation NHS contracts

THE government is facing a legal challenge over plans to radically change the way the NHS is funded, which campaigners argue will threaten patient safety.

A judge  granted a judicial review yesterday into the plans, under which funding for health and care services would be based on the size of the population in each NHS administrative area, not on the number of patients treated or the complexity of their needs.

Funds would be awarded by NHS England through “accountable care organisation” contracts (ACOs) with local NHS and social care providers.

Campaign group 999 Call for the NHS, which is taking the case to court, says the proposed system would “threaten patient safety and force hospitals and doctors to restrict treatment, making decisions based on money not clinical judgement.”

They argue that the new funding formula is unlawful and in breach of NHS statutory duty to provide care.

The judicial review will take place in Leeds High Court on a date to be fixed after February 16.

Leigh Day lawyer Rowan Smith, who is representing the campaigners, said NHS England was trying to “circumvent” funding protections in the 2012 Health & Social Care Act “by the back door.”

“If NHS England does not have the legal power to introduce these new ACO contracts, then it will have to go back to the drawing board, which can ultimately only be a good thing for patients.”

The 999 campaign grew out of Darlo Mums, which helped organise a 300-mile People’s March for the NHS from Jarrow to London in 2014.

Jo Land, one of the original Darlo Mums, said: “In 2014, 20,000 people felt so strongly about the devastating effects of marketisation on the NHS that they joined us at the end of our 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 contract.”

Campaign supporter and advanced nurse practitioner Andrea English said: “The direction of change under ACOs, 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.”

The legal action has been financed through crowd-funding online. The campaigners need a further £12,000 to meet the cost of the review. 

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