• Second judicial review of ACO contract given judge’s permission to proceed
  • Judicial review argues ACOs will need an act of Parliament to be lawful
  • Case will be heard after 14 March

A second judicial review of NHS England’s accountable care organisation contract has been granted permission to proceed.

Mr Justice Walker has allowed the review based on the argument that primary legislation is required for ACOs to be lawful and the need for “transparency” from the government.

The review, launched by Professor Stephen Hawking, Colin Hutchinson, Professor Allyson Pollock, Professor Sue Richards and Graham Winyard, will be heard “as soon as possible after 14 March 2018”.

Mr Justice Walker has not capped the costs the claimants will have to pay should the judicial review fail.

The decision follows another judicial review being given permission to proceed in December. This review, brought by campaign group 999 Call for the NHS, argues the ACO contract breaches sections of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It will be heard on 24 April.

Last week, NHS England said clinical commissioning groups would not be able to use the contract until a 12 week public consultation has been carried out. It has not confirmed when the consultation will start.

The Commons health committee is also set to hear evidence for and against the ACO contract during its inquiry into sustainability and transformation plans.

In a letter to Jeremy Hunt earlier this month, committee chair Sarah Wollaston requested he delay laying the regulations that would allow ACOs to exist in the NHS before Parliament.

Originally, the health and social care secretary said he intended to present the regulations in February.

Speaking at a committee hearing last week, Mr Hunt said delaying the regulations was not in his hands and a matter for the government whips.

Professor Richards said: “I am delighted that we have been allowed to challenge actions by the government and NHS England to bring in this policy without making changes to the law, which we say are necessary. This opportunity is an essential mechanism for ensuring public accountability in a democracy under the rule of law.”