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NHS campaign group takes CCG to court over patient involvement

A CCG is being forced to defend a legal challenge after a patient campaign group alleged it had failed to adequately consult patients in its procurement decisions.

The case, thought to be the first of its kind to be heard in court since CCGs were introduded, has seen Protect Our NHS challenging NHS Bristol CCG amid worries that services were being decommissioned without patients being properly heard.

However the CCG denied the claims, saying that it takes patient engagement ‘very seriously’.

Previously there has been threats to take CCGs to court over procurement decisions, and Monitor has investigated processes but with this case set for court the claimant’s legal adviser Leigh Day solicitors said the outcome could prove significant in establishing the extent to which CCGs have to consult the public when commissioning services going forward.

The case will test whether Bristol CCG’s commissioning process was in keeping with section 14Z(2) of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which states that the CCG ‘must make arrangements to secure that individuals to whom the services are being or may be provided are involved.. in the development and consideration of proposals by the group for changes in the commissioning arrangements where the implementation of the proposals would have an impact on the manner in which the services are delivered to the individuals or the range of health services available to them’.

Leigh Day solicitor Rosa Curling said: ‘CCGs are new bodies, and in a way that the PCTs had learnt – sometimes because of litigation – the extent to which the public have to be involved in the decision making, I think all that organisational memory had been lost a bit.’

‘What the court says will dictate what that particular duty means, and absolutely it will have an effect on how all other CCGs then act.’

Protect Our NHS treasurer Steve Timmins said: ‘The massive worry is that there are patients who are not being consulted, who are very, very, very vulnerable whose services are being moved, stopped – and it’s their voices which are not being listened to.’

A CCG spokesperson said: ‘Protect our NHS has issued a claim against the CCG for judicial review. It relates to the decision of the CCG on 28 January 2014 to formally adopt its Procurement Policy. Protect our NHS claims that the CCG inadequately publishes arrangements as to how it will engage with service users and the public when making commissioning decisions.’

‘The CCG is disappointed by the claim made by Protect our NHS as our policy is robust and we are active in engaging and involving local people and organisations. We take our obligations to engage very seriously and we met with Protect our NHS to explain the extensive arrangements we make in the context of specific commissioning projects. The CCG is entitled to retain a degree of flexibility as to what will be the extent of engagement in any given situation given that the value and nature of different services varies widely. The CCG will be defending this claim.’