Unison, the major public sector union, has welcomed what it says is a “positive indication” from the High Court about its challenge to the white paper reforms.
Unison applied in August for a judicial review over what it claims is a lack of proper public consultation over the government’s NHS reform proposals.
It claims the NHS has already been instructed to begin implementing some of the reforms before the official end of the white paper consultation period, on 11 October.
It also argues the consultation needed to ask whether the reforms should go ahead at all - citing a public right included in the NHS Constitution - as well as how they should actually be introduced.
A High Court judge today said the government may have a case to answer.
The honourable Mr Justice Collins in the High Court said: “The minister’s statement is certainly capable of being construed as limited to implementation and it is necessary to bear in mind that Parliament can and will decide on policy whether or not there has been any particular consultation.
“However, there are arguments that may persuade a judge that there was a need for wider consultation based on what has been said and the provisions of the 2009 [Health] Act coupled with previous governmental statements.”
Unison head of health Karen Jennings said in a statement: “We are pleased to have received an initial, positive response from the court to our request for a judicial review.
“Although this does not mean the court has granted us permission to proceed to a substantive hearing, it is an encouraging order. We believe we have a very strong case and are looking forward to putting our evidence before the court in due course.”
As revealed at the start of August, the union wrote to NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson about its concerns earlier in the summer, threatening to seek a judicial review if reform implementation was not halted.
Unison said Sir David had told the union he would remind chief executives not to implement the proposals until the consultation period had ended in October. But he also said the consultation was limited to how the proposal should be implemented, not on whether they should be.