23rd February 2018
By Graham Smith
Health campaigners trying to delay Cornwall Council’s takeover of the NHS are to hold a meeting next week to update supporters on the latest steps towards a formal legal challenge. The campaigners say they are saddened that Cornwall’s councillors have failed to protect the NHS and that they now have no choice but to ask the courts to intervene.
999 Call for the NHS, which already has a Judicial Review trial scheduled for 24th April, is now working with the online campaigners 38 Degrees to join Cornwall Council to the litigation unless the authority agrees to postpone its Accountable Care System (ACS) beyond 1st April.
The ACS requires a pooling of NHS and council budgets to achieve “Integrated Strategic Commissioning” – widely seen as a transfer of power from the NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group to the council, with the council’s chief executive Kate Kennally in overall charge.
The council’s cabinet is due to meet on 28th March to rubber stamp the ACS launch on 1st April. But having so far failed to persuade councillors to exercise political judgement, campaigners believe a High Court injunction could stop “Kennally Care” in its tracks – or at least until after Leeds High Court has clarified if it is legal.
A Parliamentary Select Committee is also investigating Accountable Care and many councillors, who have so far been denied a vote on the proposals, say they cannot understand why Cornwall Council officials are in such a hurry to launch a restructured NHS before there has been proper political scrutiny or judicial due process.
The campaigners are to meet in Penzance next Friday (2ndMarch) at 6pm in The Longboat Inn, Market Jew Street, Penzance. London-based lawyers Leigh Day, who are already representing 999 Call for the NHS, have written to Cornwall Council warning that the authority will be joined to the litigation unless it postpones its ACS.
The council has confirmed it is in correspondence with Leigh Day but refused to disclose details. However, Cornwall Reports understands the council’s position is that because it is now using a form of words (Integrated Strategic Commissioning) which does not imply an Organisation, System, Partnership, vehicle or any of the other previous permutations it is not acting unlawfully by assuming control of the NHS budget.
The 1st April launch would be for a “shadow” ACS with each of the separate organisations retaining their existing statutory roles. But campaigners say this means simply that the council would be running the NHS without risking any blame for failure – and that a “shadow” arrangement is even worse than any properly constituted restructure.
Cornwall’s Accountable Care System would be given a fixed five-year budget and told to run its own affairs. Campaigners fear this will pave the way for “lowest-tender” privatisation.
Neil Foss, a Penzance 38 Degrees campaigner who is working with LeighDay, said: “We have tried to talk to local councillors and elected representatives but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears it seems. They seem to think that if they call it something like a partnership, or an integrated care service we’ll be fooled into thinking we don’t have to worry. But the elements and mechanisms of the American ACO model are still in play. That is a huge worry for all of us.”