Prof Hawking joins legal challenge to NHS shake-up
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has added his name to a group of doctors and academics mounting a legal challenge to radical changes to the NHS which aim to hand care to US-style accountable care organisations.
Professor Hawking told journalists he had joined the legal action beacuse he feared the new accountable care organisations (ACOs) were 'an attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
The legal challenge to block ACOs gathered pace this month as it emerged the government is planning to use secondary legislation to push through necessary rule changes without full Parliamentary debate or scrutiny.
The government is hoping to have the regulatory changes in place as early as February 2018 to pave the way for the new organisations.
Labour MPs have sought to block use of the statutory instrument with an early day motion calling for the regulatory changes to be debated in the House of Commons.
The campaign group mounting the legal challenge, said in a statement that the new organisations were non-NHS bodies governed by company and contract law that could assume 'full responsibility' for NHS and adult social services even though they are not recognised by an Act of Parliament.
'ACOs would be able to decide on the boundary of what care is free and what has to be paid for. They will be paid more if they save money. They can include private companies, for example Virgin in Frimley and Circle in Nottinghamshire, including private insurance and property companies, which can make money from charging,' the statement said.
'They could also include GP practices, in which case people on their lists would automatically transfer to the ACO in order to be entitled to services. They would have control over the allocation of NHS and taxpayers’ money. Their accountability for spending it and their obligations to the public would be under commercial contracts, not statutes. This is not in the public interest.'
Meanwhile the Commons Select Committee on Health has resumed its inquiry into Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and is seeking submissions on whether their plans to reduce bed capacity are 'realistic and credible'.