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NHS England plans second ACO contract consultation

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Why has NHS England delayed the introduction of ACOs?

NHS England has announced it will hold a further consultation on how a new accountable care organisation (ACO) contract will work within the existing structures and legal framework.

The decision effectively delays the contract’s introduction.

NHS England chiefs held an earlier two-month consultation on a draft of the contract during 2017. The consultation is to seek views from stakeholders and the public as well as explain how the contract will be used. No ACO contract is to be awarded in the meantime.

However, the organisation defends the contract by arguing that ACOs will not affect commissioners’ duties under the NHS Act 2006. Areas using an ACO contract still need to comply with procurement legislation.

The decision to delay the contract follows news that NHS England’s plan to convert sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) into accountable care organisations (ACOs) in England are to be tested by two High Court challenges.

The actions are being brought by campaign groups concerned that the plans are being implemented without proper public consultation and could lead to increased privatisation and rationing, the British Medical Journal(BMJ) has reported.

The 999 Call for the NHS campaign has been given permission to apply for a judicial review of the proposals on 24 April, while the JR4NHS campaign is waiting to hear whether its case against NHS England and the Health Secretary can go ahead.

An ACO is a healthcare model in which a provider or a group of providers delivers the healthcare needs of an entire population and is incentivised to jointly achieve a set of outcomes and targets.

NHS England claims implementing the model will deliver a more joined-up service for patients.

Dudley and Manchester’s proposed local care organisation, are expected to be the contract’s first two users following the consultation. NHS England notes that the emerging bidders for both the Dudley and Manchester proposals are NHS bodies.

Further information

BMJNHS England faces legal challenges over proposed changes to services

NHS England: ACO contract

NHS England: NHS England announces consultation on ACO contracts