…despite two Judicial Reviews and a Parliamentary Select Committee
By Graham Smith
The celebrated physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, and colleagues, have been given permission to challenge the “Kennally Care” proposals for taking over health services at a full Judicial Review.
Mr Justice Walker said the application to challenge Accountable Care Organisations (ACO) “merited a full hearing” which will take place sometime after 14th March. A separate Judicial Review, brought by campaigners based in Yorkshire, has been given a firm date for a hearing at Leeds High Court in April.
Cornwall Council is nevertheless going ahead with plans to take over strategic commissioning from the NHS, with effect from 1st April, despite the courts agreeing to two separate Judicial Reviews and the decision of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to put “on hold” his plans to restructure health and social care.
The council claims its proposals differ from ACOs because they are for an “Accountable Care System” (ACS.) But the authority is still refusing to publish its “before-and-after” business plans which would show what changes, if any, were made between December 2016 and May 2017, other than a simple name change.
In December 2016 the council was unashamedly planning to set up an ACO, now dubbed “Kennally Care” after chief executive Kate Kennally, who as the overall Strategic Commissioner would get an additional £850 million to spend. Her ascension to this role in November 2016 followed a bitter back-room battle with NHS Kernow.
The courts’ approval of the case for two full Judicial Review proceedings now makes the enthusiasm of Cornwall’s Liberal Democrat-led council look increasingly suspicious. A growing number of Lib Dem councillors are unhappy with their cabinet leaders, believing the ACO/ACS restructure is being rushed. They want to wait until the courts, and Parliament, have completed their scrutiny of the issues.
The council has still not published its business case or risk assessment for the ACS, yet plans to launch the new system on 1st April. A scrutiny committee meeting on Monday has the power, in theory, to “call in” any decision which could, in effect, delay the ACS launch and allow time for proper consideration.
Councillors are also unhappy that background papers for Monday’s meeting will not be made available in advance, which is also highly unusual, particularly for such a complex and controversial issue.
“It’s no good Adam (Paynter, council leader) going on about fake news and scaremongering,” one Lib Dem councillor told Cornwall Reports. “Adam needs to engage, and answer the questions. The direction of travel is obvious. Are we really saying the council is competent to run the NHS? I think Stephen Hawking is right and I hope his campaign wins.”
A statement on the JR4NHS Crowdjustice website says: “We are delighted to say that the court has granted permission for the judicial review to proceed to a full hearing “as soon as possible” after 14 March 2018.
“After last week’s concession of a national 12-week public consultation in the spring, Mr Justice Walker has decided that arguments on the need for primary legislation and on transparency “merit a full hearing”. This is fantastic news.
“We now expect the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, not to lay the regulations to facilitate ACOs that he was planning to do in February. He repeatedly refused last week to delay the regulations when questioned by Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee.
“Disappointingly, the judge also decided not to cap the costs that the claimants might have to pay the government and NHS England if the judicial review is lost. In view of the large amounts already spent and claimed by the government and NHS England in opposing the case every inch of the way, we are giving careful consideration to next steps on this at the moment.”
If it looks like an Accountable Care Organisation, walks like an Accountable Care Organisation, and talks like an Accountable Care Organisation…..above, what the council and health chiefs said in December 2016. Below, what they say now: