In Brief

Stephen Hawking to take NHS England and Jeremy Hunt to court

Campaign group says health system shake-up opens door to privatisation

Physicist Stephen Hawking and a group of health campaigners have won permission to pursue a court challenge to Jeremy Hunt’s plans to restructure NHS England. 

Hawking and the campaigners, who use the name JR4NHS, argue that the proposals could lead to a US-style privatisation of the health service. They also claim the Health Secretary’s plans are so far-reaching that an Act of Parliament is required, allowing MPs and Lords to scrutinise the proposed changes. 

Hunt’s proposals could “allow commercial companies to run health and social services across a whole region”, says The Independent. Responsibility for patients in these regions would be held by new healthcare overseers called Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs).

Although a High Court judge has granted permission for JR4NHS to pursue a judicial review,  there is no cap on the legal costs that the group would have to pay if they lost the case. The campaigners are said to be considering their next steps. A crowdfunding page has raised more than £150,000 for legal costs.

The Department of Health and Social Care dismissed the group’s case as “irresponsible scaremongering”, the BBC says.

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