A judge has ordered a primary care trust to halt the planned transfer of its provider arm to a social enterprise, pending the outcome of a High Court hearing.

NHS Gloucestershire was forced to put the transfer of community services to Gloucestershire Care Services Community Interest Company on hold three days before it was due to take place on 1 October, when lawyers acting on behalf of service user Michael Lloyd threatened to launch a judicial review.

After consulting its own lawyers, the PCT gave formal notice it intended to press ahead with the transfer on 1 November, with the knock on effect that Mr Lloyd’s solicitors, Leigh Day & Co, formalised the legal challenge and lodged papers with the High Court.  

After considering the arguments last Friday, High Court judge Mr Justice Collins ordered that the PCT should not finalise the transfer pending the outcome of a hearing.

The legal action is being supported by campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts, which wants to see provision of community services and 3,000 staff stay within the NHS.

They fear the transfer to a social enterprise will pave the way for a private provider to take on the services, which include nine community hospitals and 10 clinics, if they are tendered in future.

Stroud Against the Cuts co-ordinator James Beecher said: “If successful, this challenge will force managers to consider options which have been successfully implemented elsewhere in the country and would keep services and staff within the NHS.”

NHS Gloucestershire chief executive Jan Stubbings said the PCT wanted to resolve matters as quickly as possible, and had made a joint application with Mr Lloyd’s solicitors for an early hearing.

She added: “Concluding the arrangements for the transfer is in the interests of patients and staff and will ensure service continuity and stability. Timely resolution of outstanding legal matters is also in the interests of the taxpayer and public funds.”