NHS England “acted unlawfully” over GP cuts, says High Court
Save Our Surgeries campaigners have scored a significant victory against NHS England, as the High Court found in favour of east London patient Danny Currie on 25 November 2014.
Danny, who has multiple health problems and uses a wheelchair, was represented by human rights lawyers Leigh Day, who argued that NHS England had ignored its duty to consult patients before making changes to funding that threatened to close his GP surgery.
In a ruling reached without a hearing, Mr Justice Popplewell agreed that NHS had “acted unlawfully”, by failing “to make arrangements for the involvement of patients in primary care commissioning decisions as required by the National Health Service Act 2006”.
The ruling means that until NHS England sets up proper patient consultation, it will be breaking the law whenever it takes big decisions affecting GP practices or any other area of primary care.
At a public meeting held at Lauriston School in Hackney on Wednesday 26 November, campaigners from Save Our Surgeries joined with residents from three east London boroughs, to share the campaign’s successes and to discuss the most recent round of cuts, which is threatening a whole new group of surgeries.
Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South & Shoreditch, spoke of the difficulty in getting NHS England to share even basic information about what is happening to GP surgeries. She feared as many as 3,000 practices could be badly affected across England.
Speakers including Dr Louise Irvine from the successful Save Lewisham Hospital campaign shared their deep concern for the current state of the NHS and spoke of the threat posed by TTIP – the secretive EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated in Brussels. Campaigners fear that unless the Government gets the NHS exempted from the deal, which David Cameron has expressly refused to request, the current wave of service privatisation could become irreversible.
Speaking after the meeting, GP Coral Jones said: “We’re absolutely delighted the High Court has ruled in favour of a disabled patient and against NHS England and Jeremy Hunt.
“The Court confirmed that NHS England can’t make deep cuts to GP surgeries and force them to close, without consulting patients and taking their opinion into account. But that’s exactly what NHS England did when it decided to withdraw the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee without consulting patients. This cut alone has put 22 east London surgeries at risk of closing and a total of 98 surgeries across England.
“We’re now waiting to hear how NHS England intends to put things right. But, in the meantime, our campaign goes on. We think the cuts we’ve seen so far are the tip of the iceberg and we’re seriously worried about what this means for our patients.”
In a short statement to campaigners, Danny Currie said: “This just shows how the government gets it wrong, when they don’t listen to patients.”
Notes to the editor:
For Leigh Day’s statement on the High Court ruling see:
Save Our Surgeries is demanding:
• All changes to GP funding must be put on hold, pending the review of GP funding that is due to start in 2015.
• Any new funding formula must take factors like deprivation into account.
• All GP surgeries should receive fair funding to meet the needs of their patients, whichever contract they are working to.
Contact: Dr Coral Jones 0784 2877 551.
Photo: Danny Currie (seated) is pictured at a Save Our Surgeries protest in June 2014.