NHS campaigners lose High Court challenge against Jeremy Hunt

PA

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge against Jeremy Hunt over plans they say will allow private companies to play a greater role in the NHS.

As the UK marked the 70th anniversary of the NHS on Thursday, Mr Justice Green dismissed a case brought against the Health Secretary by the JR4NHS group.

The group was founded by three doctors and a university professor and the legal action was backed by Professor Stephen Hawking until his death in March.

The renowned physicist had warned that introducing commercial companies to run parts of the health and social services would amount to an "attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS".

A judicial review by the four remaining claimants was heard over two days in May.

Lawyers for the group argued against the planned introduction of accountable care organisations (ACOs) which the campaigners said "could easily be" for-profit companies.

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Rejecting their case, Mr Justice Green said the policy was "lawful" and that - since the NHS had decided to launch a consultation - the details remain "work in progress".

The judge said the campaigners will have an opportunity to make their arguments during the consultation and the Health Secretary will be "under a duty to consider them".

Mr Hunt's Department of Health and Social Care rejected claims about ACOs as "irresponsible scaremongering".

A consultation is due to be carried out on the contracting agreements for the ACOs, which supporters say will help to better co-ordinate care and improve patient services.

The judicial review was supported by the British Medical Association (BMA).