The BMA has provided a witness statement in support of a High Court case against government plans to bring local health and social care services under one contract.
It argues the Government’s plans could risk health budgets, including for general practice, getting into the hands of private companies.
This comes as the second of two judicial reviews against that ‘accountable care organisation’ (ACO) contract is heard in the High Court in London today.
GP leaders have said the plans, which could force GPs to give up their patients should they decide to leave an ACO, ‘sit outside of existing legislation and frameworks’.
Campaign group JR4NHS, launched its bid for a review last year, arguing that the plans go against current legislation that defines CCGs as the organisations that plan and buy care in the NHS.
They have also claimed that the health and social care secretary and NHS England failed to consult the public on the need for ACOs.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘While we agree with the principle of greater collaboration in the NHS and between health and social care, such transformation plans sit outside of existing legislation and frameworks and risk handing an area’s entire NHS budget to private providers through competitive tendering.’
Dr Nagpaul added that because the contracts are time limited ‘providers would have to re-bid for contracts every 10 years, creating great uncertainty for whole populations of patients’.
He said: ‘We feel the plans as they stand have the potential to have a far-reaching negative impact on patients, doctors and the wider NHS workforce, who must therefore have transparency and clarity – as well as the opportunity to properly consider such changes – something we are not convinced the Government has supplied so far.’
The BMA previously responded to a Government consultation on the regulatory changes needed to implement the new contract, saying ACOs ‘risk the potential for non-NHS providers taking over the provision of care for entire health economies’.
But the Department of Health and Social Care, said at the time that it was ‘completely misleading to suggest ACOs are a step towards privatising the health system’.
The last judicial review to challenge the ‘unlawful’ contract lost its bid last week, after the judge said the contract was in keeping with the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
Responding to today’s judicial review, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We want to better integrate care so it is co-ordinated around patients and we strongly contest this Judicial Review as an unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money.
‘We remain very clear that our actions have been lawful and appropriate, and are committed to being open and transparent with the public, which is why in addition to our consultation on the legislation, NHS England will carry out a new consultation on the ACO contract.’