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Public must be consulted on new ISTCs

Health bodies will have to consult the public before opening independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) or making other changes to service provision after an ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers say the ruling by the Court of Appeal may have set a precedent by saying that South West Strategic Health Authority and South Gloucestershire PCT should have consulted the public over plans for an ISTC. Patient Rebecca Fudge challenged a previous court ruling that they did not have to.

The Court of Appeal ruled that, although former health secretary Patricia Hewitt had advised the SHA and the PCT that they did not have to consult the public, this was unlawful.

Ms Fudge claimed that the ISTC plans tied in with the downgrading of Bristol's Frenchay Hospital, but the Court of Appeal said there was no evidence for this.

Peter Merchant, partner and health sector specialist at Eversheds law firm, said: ‘This is an important decision which confirms that health sector providers, excluding the Department of Health, are required to consult about all health service provision in their local area. The only question remaining will be about the degree to which they must consult. Further judicial guidance may be required to clarify this.'

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