Melvyn Bragg, Richard Eyre, David Lascelles, David Owen, Jonathan Pryce, Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien, Paul Laverty, John McCarthy, Alan Bennett andHelena Kennedy have all joined Professor Stephen Hawking in the fight against what they see as an unscrutinised americanisation of our health service, reports The Guardian.
The introduction of US-originated accountable care organisations (ACOs) to the NHS has been met with alarm by several prominent figures. ACO’s seem to be non-statutory, non-NHS bodies tasked with running health and social services, which have the potential to work contrary to the NHS’s fundamental principles.
Their interest has been peaked due to the fact that Jeremy Hunt and NHS England seem to be implementing this system without primary legislation, proper public consultation or full parliamentary scrutiny. Professor Hawking had stated in a previous article in the same paper:
“I am concerned that accountable care organisations are an attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS,”
“They have not been established by statute, and they appear to be being used for reducing public expenditure, for cutting services and for allowing private companies to receive and benefit from significant sums of public money for organising and providing services.”
Professor Hawking, along with and four academics who make up a group pressing for a judicial review, have hopes that high court judges will grant it to them to stop the introduction of ACOs without the move first being put through a proper public consultation and given the correct consideration by parliament. Professor Hawking again stated:
“I am joining this legal action because the NHS is being taken in a direction which I oppose, as I stated in August, without proper public and parliamentary scrutiny, consultations and debate,”
“I want the attention of the people of England to be drawn to what is happening and for those who are entrusted with responsibility for the NHS to account openly for themselves in public, and to be judged accordingly.”
Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health who helped instigate the legal action in October said: “We are honoured and delighted that Prof Stephen Hawking, who cares so deeply about the NHS, is joining this legal action. The full details of these ACOs must be published and consulted on before they progress any further. This should be the first rule of good and transparent administration for the NHS.”
“If Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens won’t budge, then this is the moment that everybody needs to come together and say clearly that the NHS is ours, and that we are going to fight to keep it that way.”
A response from the department of health was as follows: “We strongly resist the misleading claims in this action; it is irresponsible scaremongering to suggest that Accountable Care Organisations are being used to support privatisation and harm the fundamental principles of the NHS.
“The NHS will remain a taxpayer-funded system free at the point of use; ACOs are simply about making care more joined-up between different health and care organisations.”