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Union loses case against government’s changes to NHS

15 October 2010

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The government did not act unlawfully by not consulting with unions, patients and the public over plans for a major shake-up to the NHS, a High Court judge has ruled.

Public sector trade union Unison argued that Andrew Lansley (pictured), the Health Secretary, was legally obliged to consult on the “merits” of the plans before adopting a “settled policy” but had not done so.

However, Mr Justice Mitting found that Mr Lansley had no duty to consult in the way argued by the union.

Michael Beloff QC, for Unison, said some of the proposals were sensible and others were an extension of policies pursued by the previous government, so the union was not opposed to all of them. He said: “The union’s only concern is that the voice of those who work in the NHS should be heard before decisions are made to fundamentally reorganise the health service.”

The union said that a government white paper published by the health secretary took no account of the views of health workers or patients.

James Eadie QC, appearing for the health secretary, argued in documents before the court that the minister was not legally obliged to conduct a full public consultation, or to engage in discussions with NHS staff on the merits of the proposals in the white paper.

Dismissing the case on its second day, the judge said the health secretary was “not under any duty to consult on the principle of proposed changes to the NHS before introducing legislation to Parliament”.

He announced: “Nothing in the NHS Constitution imposes an obligation of the kind for which Unison contends in these proceedings.”

After his ruling the judge heard that Unison was not seeking leave to appeal.

Copyright © Press Association 2010