A High Court judge has ruled in favour of NHS England in the first of two judicial reviews against its accountable care organisation contract.

Campaign group 999 Call for the NHS, represented by law firm Leigh Day, brought a judicial review against NHS England last year which argued plans to introduce annual whole population payments through the ACO contract was unlawful.

Following a hearing on 24 April 2018, Judge Mr Justice Kerr has ruled today that the court did not find anything unlawful with the payment mechanism proposed by the ACO contract.

The judgement today said: “…the claimant [999 Call for the NHS] complains that the [Whole Population Annual Payment] imposes budgetary control at the expense of not being “demand led”: the ACO does not know how many hip replacements it will have to fund from its fixed budget.

“This, the claimant argued, encourages the very price competition which the 2012 Act was supposed to banish and which, politicians have said publicly, does not work.

“That is a political objection and is not a matter for the court. There are no doubt advantages and disadvantages to every payment system. The WPAP can be judged in the political arena but this court does not find anything unlawful in its use as the law stands.”

The campaign group said it would appeal the decision.

DAC Beachcroft, whichrepresented NHSE, said today: “The High Court in Leeds has confirmed that whole population annual payments are lawful in principle, rejecting a judicial review brought by a member of campaign group ‘999 Call for the NHS’.”

A spokesman from NHSE said: “This important ruling speaks for itself.”