28 Oct 2011

Legal case offers chance that local health services will be kept in NHS

Here is the press release from Stroud Against the Cuts - plus see my video of the recent protest and march in Stroud here.

My photo of march - used by The Guardian on their website

The Honourable Mr Justice Collins has determined that NHS Gloucestershire should not complete any agreement to finalise their proposed transfer of over 3,000 NHS health staff and a variety of health services in Gloucestershire[i] out of the NHS, following the issuance of judicial proceedings by Leigh Day & Co. Solicitors[ii] on behalf of Stroud resident Michael Lloyd, 75, on Friday 21st October [iii]. The legal case is being supported by local campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts[iv], who say the challenge creates an opportunity for the services to be kept within the NHS. The group points out that while similar transfer plans are due to take effect in 20 PCTs across the country, this is the first time plans to transfer parts of the public sector to a 'social enterprise' at this stage have been halted by a legal challenge – and it is the example where transfer would have created the largest Community Interest Company (CIC) in the country. Campaigners have strongly criticised the lack of consultation about the plans, and fear the loss of accountability that the new body will bring.

Stroud Against the Cuts has organised a Public Meeting on Monday 7th November, 7.30pm at the British School as an opportunity for local NHS staff and members of the public to ask questions about the campaign and the legal case[v]. The group is calling for donations towards legal costs: cheques can be made out to ‘Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public’ and sent to Bernice Boss - Treasurer, Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public, c/o SATC, The Exchange, Brick Row, Stroud, GL5 1DF.

John Marjoram, Stroud Mayor, said: “We’ve had a fantastic response to our ‘Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS Public’ fundraising appeal to contribute towards legal costs[vi]. I have yet to meet anybody, whether they be public or staff, who want the transfer out of the NHS. Once people know exactly what the proposals are there is unbelievable opposition, which we have seen at the public meeting held in Stroud on August 31st, and the protest march on October 24th”

James Beecher, a co-ordinator of Stroud Against the Cuts said: “If successful, this challenge will force managers to consider options which have been successfully implemented elsewhere in the country and would keep services and staff within the NHS. The legal case alone cannot save our local NHS services – we encourage people to join the campaign and put pressure on managers to keep these services in the NHS. Unless we act now we believe that in 3 years time these services will be taken over by a multinational healthcare company, as recently happened in Surrey[vii]”

Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co Solicitors said: “Our client believes the proposed transfer would be highly detrimental to the NHS services which he and other Gloucestershire residents receive. NHS Gloucestershire has a number of options open to it, two of which would not result in a competitive process and do not appear to have been properly considered by the Trust[viii]. It is only if NHS Gloucestershire decides that it wants to outsource its services to a non-NHS trust that the Procurement Directive applies. In those circumstances the law requires the Trust to hold a proper and transparent, competitive process, to choose a new service provider. The PCT has acted unlawfully and in clear breach of these obligations and we issued proceedings at the High Court on that basis.”

See notes and links to two reports by clicking read more.

NHS body, such as the 2gether Trust, both of which are routes which have been pursued elsewhere in the country.
BBC Gloucestershire: NHS Gloucestershire judicial review a step closer http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-15459778

Nursing Times: NHS Gloucestershire judicial review a step closer: http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-specialisms/district-and-community-nursing/tcs-social-enterprise-transfer-faces-legal-challenge/5037024.article

[i] Without the legal challenge, Stroud General Hospital, Beeches Green health clinic and other community hospitals, health clinics and services in Gloucestershire would have been transferred to a private limited company outside the NHS. The services affected include District Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Specialist Nursing, Out of hours medical and nursing services, Pharmacy, Sexual Health and Chlamydia screening, Podiatry, Dental services, Wheelchair services, Musculo-skeletal services, Telehealth and Specialist Domiciliary care are also to be transferred to Gloucestershire Care Services Community Interest Company. Nine community hospitals (Stroud, Berkeley, Cirencester, Dilke, Fairford, Lydney, Bourton (Moore Cottage), Moreton, Tewkesbury) and ten health clinics (Beeches Green Stroud, Stonehouse Health Clinic, Sandpits Clinic Dursley, Cinderford Health Centre, Coleford Health Centre, Lydney Health Centre, Hesters Way Healthy Living Centre, Holts Health Centre Newent, Lydbrook Health Centre, Symn Lane Clinic (Wotton-under-Edge)) are also part of the plans.

[ii] For more information on Leigh Day see: http://www.leighday.co.uk/Home. Leigh Day & Co is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The firm's SRA number is 00067679.
[iii] Progress should be made within three weeks – lawyers acting on behalf of the PCT have 21 days to respond to the judicial proceedings.

[iv] Stroud Against the Cuts is a community group formed in November 2010. For more information see: http://www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk

[v] The meeting will be addressed by Prof. Wendy Savage, co-chair of national campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public. Other speakers are To Be Confirmed. Professor Wendy Savage was was the first woman consultant to be appointed in obstetrics and gynaecology. She is internationally known as a campaigner for women's rights in childbirth and fertility and as Co-Chair of Keep Our NHS Public has been an outspoken campaigner against the government’s proposed changes to the NHS. For more on Keep Our NHS Public see: http://www.keepournhspublic.com.

[vi] The fundraising appeal has been launched to raise money towards the ‘community contribution’ that it is expected will be required by the Legal Services Commission towards legal costs – all money raised will go to legal costs, and in the event of excess to other campaigns to keep the NHS public.

[vii] In September, Central Surrey Health – a flagship healthcare social enterprise – lost out on a £500 million contract to Assura Medical, a private healthcare company 75% owned by Virgin Central Surrey Health story see: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8e187d7c-e2cc-11e0-93d9-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1YaQCdKWz and http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2011/sep/19/social-enterprise-big-society-gets-reality-check.

[viii] NHS Gloucestershire could retain the services in house, as is happening in Devon. Alternatively, they could set up a standalone community NHS Trust, or transfer services to another

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