COMMERCIAL: A primary care trust has backed down on the second day of a judicial review hearing by agreeing to reconsider the future of its community services.

During the first day of the High Court hearing yesterday, lawyers for Stroud resident and service user Michael Lloyd, 75, argued NHS Gloucestershire had acted unlawfully in approving the transfer of its provider arm to a social enterprise without giving other organisations an opportunity to bid for the services.

Mr Lloyd was supported by campaign group Stroud Against The Cuts and claimed this had removed the opportunity for the services to remain within the NHS. David Lock QC, who represented Mr Lloyd, described as “inaccurate” and “flawed” NHS Gloucestershire’s claims that there was no NHS option and the only alternative to a social enterprise was a private provider.

NHS Gloucestershire’s legal team was due to make its case at the High Court this morning but the case was adjourned to allow for negotiations between parties. This afternoon it was announced the two parties had reached agreement to “settle” the judicial review.

The case, which Mr Lloyd received legal aid to fight, had been scheduled to last two days.

A joint statement said: “We recognise the need for efficient use of public funds and believe that an end to legal proceedings is in everyone’s interest – particularly patients.”

The transfer to Gloucestershire Care Services Community Interest Company, on hold since the legal challenge was launched in September, will now be halted.

Under the terms of the agreement the PCT will now advertise for expressions of interest for the provision of local services. It will then decide whether to enter into “arrangements with another NHS body” or to provide them through a “different arrangement”. This could still include a social enterprise or a private sector organisation. 

Unison regional manager and former nurse Tanya Palmer told Nursing Times this had left staff “anxious” and facing at least another year of uncertainty.

“There is no guarantee under this approach that the services won’t be separated [from each other]. Staff are anxious upset and worried, not only for themselves but for their patients and services.

“Staff clearly said they wanted to stay in the NHS but they were ignored.”

The PCT has also committed to ensuring “appropriate” levels of staff and public engagement in future plans. Staff will continue to be employed by the PCT while this process is followed.