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NHS England faces first legal challenge to plans for Accountable Care Organisations

NHS England faces a legal challenge to its plans to overhaul how the health service operates, which critics say are unlawful and could lead to patients being denied treatment.

Campaigners are trying to derail plans to introduce of “accountable care organisations” (ACOs), which they say could force doctors to decide what care a patient needs based on how much money is available rather than how sick someone is.

If the changes go through then individual hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will no longer each receive an annual budget of their own.

Instead NHS bosses would give a joint budget to pay for healthcare in whole areas of England to an ACO that would be made up of all the acute, mental health and other providers of NHS care locally.

A judicial review has been secured by the campaign group 999 Call for the NHS. The group says the new contracts for the first wave of ACOs are unlawful under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and could threaten patient safety by forcing hospitals and doctors to ration patients’ access to treatment.

The case, which will be heard by the high court sitting in Leeds, is the first of two judicial reviews which judges have granted to explore the legality of ACOs.

The other will be heard in London on 23 and 24 May.

Read more in The Guardian.

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