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Campaigners argue ICOs not permitted by Health and Social Care Act

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What is the ICO campaigners’ legal argument?

Campaigners have told a High Court judicial review that the NHS would be exceeding its legal powers if it went ahead with plans to set up integrated care organisations (ICOs).

The review is the first of two legal challenges to the proposals brought by 999 Call for the NHS and JR4NHS respectively.

ICOs are intended to replace the most advanced sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), and to boost the integration of care by incentivising hospital and ambulance trusts, GPs, local authorities and commissioners to work together more closely.

Campaigners see ICOs, which were previously known as accountable care organisations (ACOs), as a vehicle for NHS privatisation and service cuts, and fear they could lead to private sector organisations being involved in decision-making on healthcare services.

At the High Court in Leeds, counsel for campaigners 999 Call for the NHS stated that commissioning body NHS England’s plan to provide a fixed annual payment to cover the needs of an entire population would be unlawful under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported.

The campaigner’s counsel argued that the Act does not permit clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to enter into a contract in which payment is not linked to the number of patients receiving the service or the types of service provided.

However, counsel for NHS England and NHS Improvement maintained that an annual payment for whole population care is permitted under the Act.

Judge Mr Justice Kerr said he hoped to deliver his judgment before the hearing of the second judicial review application, which is scheduled to begin at the High Court in London on 23 May 2018. Brought by campaigners JR4NHS, the second case has a different legal basis.

A spokesman for NHS England said the NHS would strongly resist the campaign, which if it succeeded would inevitably fragment care.

Further information

BMJ: NHS accountable care organisations would be unlawful, campaigners tell High Court

Crowdjustice: JR4NHS: urgent legal action for our NHS — round 2

Guardian: NHS England faces first legal challenge to plans for health shake-up

Twitter: 999 Call for the NHS