Stephen Hawking Takes Jeremy Hunt to the High Court

Professor Stephen Hawking

It’s no secret that the NHS is in trouble. The increased cuts in funding has of course had a dire effect on services, and it seems the only solution Jeremy Hunt and the government have is privatisation.

NHS England is due to hold a national 12-week consultation on the contracting agreements for Affordable Care Organisations (ACOs), which supporters say will improve patient services through redistribution of care. The proposed plans would see the handover of key services and responsibilities from local trusts to private contractors, bringing with it private insurance companies. Much like the health system in the US. The health system, we’ll remind you, that leaves many citizens having to resort to crowd-funding their life-saving medical treatment.

Thankfully, a group of campaigners plan to stop that happening, with the backing of the late great Professor Stephen Hawking.

The campaign group, JR4NHS, will today appear before the High Court to bring a case against Jeremy Hunt and his introduction of ACOs.

JR4NHS believe that ACOs will ‘Americanise’ the NHS, with for profit organisations making the most important decisions on long term care – leading to vital services being out of the reach of the most vulnerable. They are fighting against the plans to introduce this without a debate in parliament, even though these contracts could be signed for 10-15 years.

Professor Allyson Pollock and Dr Colin Hutchinson explain what ACOs would mean:

Before his death, Professor Hawking stood as a claimant, warning that the introduction of private companies into the NHS would be an “attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS”. He announced his support for the legal action in December, claiming  “the NHS must be protected from those who want to privatise it”.

The four remaining claimants are former consultant eye surgeon Dr Colin Hutchinson, Professor Allyson Pollock, Dr Graham Winyard CBE, Professor Sue Richards.

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care in January defended ACOs:

“We believe it is right that local NHS leaders and clinicians have the autonomy to decide the best solutions to improve care for the patients they know best – and any significant local changes are always subject to public consultation and due legal process.”

While the aim of NHS England is to make ACOs owned by local hospitals and GPs, it is more likely that because of the economy,  they will fall into the hands privately owned insurance companies who would run them for as for profit organisations first and as healthcare providers second.

Dr Colin Hutchinson, who chairs Doctors for the NHS, said: “These radical changes will eventually affect everybody in England.

“There needs to be a sound legal basis before 10-year contracts worth billions of pounds are outsourced to these new organisations.”

The case will be heard by Mr Justice Green and is expected to last for two days. The Nopebook will keep this article updated with any developments, and what they will mean for the country’s healthcare.

Image by Doug Wheller

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