UNISON is challenging plans by the Government to give GPs control of their own budgets, and abolish local health trusts.
The UK’s biggest union for health workers has sought leave to take legal action against the Secretary of State for Health, over the lack of public consultation on the NHS White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS.
UNISON claims that the proposals were not in the election manifesto of either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats and that the coalition programme for Government had envisaged a continuing role for NHS organisations.
The union claims that the proposed abolition of PCTs therefore came as a surprise to many within the NHS and that the public should have a legal right to be consulted on whether the changes should take place.
It also claims that the day after the White Paper was published, NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, wrote to all NHS chief executives instructing them to start implementing the proposals “immediately”. The union claims this was unlawful although the Department of Health disagrees and claims that the letter encouraged the NHS to begin locally led consultations and take first steps on the implementation of the White Paper, without pre-empting the wider consultation.
The union launched its legal bid in late August, and is waiting to hear if its application to seek judicial review of the Government’s plans is successful.
Time will tell whether or not UNISON is granted the right to challenge the reforms in a full hearing. Either way, it is important to remember Government can and will decide on policy, whether or not there has been any particular consultation.