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Judge rules NHS must consult patients on primary care changes

Patient of surgery threatened by funding changes wins High Court challenge against NHS

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 02 December 2014

The patient at an award winning GP surgery, which was threatened with closure due to primary care funding changes, has won a High Court victory in which one of the most senior judges in the country ruled that the NHS "acted unlawfully" in not consulting patients on changes.

Danny Currie, 33, who has multiple health problems and uses a wheelchair, mounted the High Court challenge after doctors and the practice manager at the Jubilee Street Practice in Tower Hamlets, east London, revealed that the surgery, which has served the area since the start of the NHS in 1948, was under threat of closure. Due changes to target payments, cuts in allowances for enhanced services and the gradual removal of the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) funding means the practice stood to lose over £1m in funding for staff and services. The news created a storm of opposition and saw the birth of ‘Save Our Surgeries’ - a national campaign to protect some 100 surgeries in a similar situation. Last month the NHS finally relented and came up with a short-term funding formula to keep the practice solvent prior to more significant changes in primary care funding. (See: OnMedica news)

Mr Currie's lawyers Leigh Day, 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 the 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.

GP Coral Jones, honorary secretary of the City and Hackney division of the British Medical Association, 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.”

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