The second of two legal challenges against NHS England has failed.
The outcome of a judicial review into planned accountable care organisations has been dismissed by a High Court judge.
The judicial review had been backed by the late Professor Stephen Hawking as well as the British Medical Association.
The crowd funded campaign against ACOs had argued that plans to create organisations that would allow commissioners and providers to come together had not been given proper scrutiny. The group had argued that the policy amounted to “radical and substantial” changes to the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The judge, Mr Justice Green, said the policy was “lawful” but that health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt was “under a duty” to consider criticism against ACOs when it goes to public consultation later this year.
The High Court held that the policy falls within the “statutory powers of a clinical commissioning group” and is “not contrary to the ‘commissioner-provider split’ under the National Health Service Act 2006”.
The campaign believed that ACOs involved “unlawful delegation” of CCGs responsibilities to a single provider, that may be a private, for profit organisation.
However, it has decided not to appeal the decision.
Partner at DAC Beachcroft Alistair Robertson, who represented NHS England, said: “This latest judicial review is significant for the continued successful integration of health and social care services in the NHS in England. With the High Court confirming the lawfulness of NHS England’s approach, it can proceed to consultation on this model, which is designed to improve the services that patients receive.”
The first legal challenge against ACOs failed in May this year. That was led by campaign group 999 Call for the NHS, represented by law firm Leigh Day. It unsuccessfully argued that a plan to introduce whole population payments through an ACO contract was unlawful.
An NHS England spokesman said: “The High Court has explicitly ruled that the NHS’s proposed contractual approach to developing integrated care is lawful. NHS England will now consult on the draft contract as previously promised.
“The mistaken legal challenge would have weakened the move to more integrated care by NHS staff rightly trying to work more closely together on behalf of the patients they serve.”
Statement from legal firm