A second judicial review into Jeremy Hunt’s plans to create accountable care organisations (ACOs) in the NHS was today rejected by the High Court.
Campaign group JR4NHS had brought a crowd-funded legal challenge to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans to further integrate primary care, social care, hospital services and mental health services through the creation of ACOs.
The challenge – the second failed attempt to stop the introduction of ACOs after a first judicial review, secured by campaign group 999 Call for the NHS, also failed – was today dismissed by Mr Justice Green at the High Court.
JR4NHS launched its campaign for a judicial review in December 2017 on the grounds that the proposal to create ACOs and award them one single contract for all health and care services within a specific local area would see ‘the commissioning functions of the CCGs illegally delegated to ACOs’.
The group argued that ACOs would open up to the growing involvement of private companies in the NHS and that the fact that ACOs can be partly or entirely private companies meant ‘we could end up with for-profit health organisations making behind the scenes decisions on long term NHS provision’.
JR4NHS has decided not to appeal today’s High Court decision, which saw Mr Justice Green conclude that the introduction of ACOs is lawful under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The decision not to appeal was in part a financial one, JR4NHS explained. However, in a statement released today, the campaign group also said that ‘for us, the campaign moves out of the court room – at least for now – and continues in local and political arenas, and on to the consultation’.
JR4NHS originally brought their legal challenge on two grounds: a questioning of the legality of ACOs, and an objection to what they perceived as a lack of transparency in the process of introducing them.
The group withdrew its second claim after NHS England and the health and social care secretary agreed that consultation would need to take place before ACOs are created – a move JR4NHS referred to as ‘a success’.
A spokesperson for the BMA, which had backed the JR4NHS campaign, said today: ‘’We are hugely disappointed that the judicial review has been dismissed. We believe the plans for accountable care organisations, as they stand, are absolutely not in the best interests of patients or clinical and support staff.’
Miriam Deakin, head of strategy at NHS Providers, said in response today’s High Court decision: ‘We welcome the High Court’s ruling on the introduction of accountable care organisations (ACOs).
‘ACOs are one potential vehicle which trusts and their local partners may wish to explore to deliver more joined up health and care services. Local systems need flexibility which will allow them to fund and deliver services based on the needs of people in their area.
‘We look forward to contributing to NHS England’s planned public consultation on the draft accountable care contract and hope the outcome of this leads to further clarity for trusts, patients and the public.’