The reorganisation of child heart surgery units in England has been thrown into doubt following a successful judicial review by the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust (the trust) which found that the consultation exercise for the changes was unfair on the hospital. The move was part of a wider consultation of moving surgery to fewer sites across the UK.
In Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust v Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts and Croydon Primary Care Trust the judge, Mr Justice Owen, dismissed most of the arguments put forward by the trust but he agreed that the consultation had been unfair, in that it did not allow the hospital to submit evidence on the amount and quality of research it did when the hospital realised that this was something the consultation would consider. This case is the first time that an NHS body has challenged another NHS body in court and certainly the first time a foundation trust has issued legal proceedings objecting to a large scale reconfiguration. In this case Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust challenged the joint committee of primary care trusts (JCPCTs), which represents all 152 PCTs in England who were responsible for carrying out the consultation.
The trust issued proceedings to claim judicial review as a last resort after the JCPCT refused to resolve its complaints out of court. It did so with the support of patients and their families. Finding against the JCPCT, Mr Justice Owen ruled that their defective assessment of Royal Brompton Hospital’s quality “must inevitably have affected the responses to the consultation document in a manner seriously adverse to the trust. As a result of the finding it is almost certain that the consultation will have to be carried out again. Sir Neil Mackay, chair of the joint committee of PCTs who put forward the closure recommendation said it would appeal the ruling which he said was based, "on an obscure technical point."