Legal bid over NHS White Paper
A leading union has launched legal action against the Government over its health White Paper, claiming ministers failed to consult over its plans to "fundamentally change" the way the NHS is run.
Unison said it wanted to challenge Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over his "refusal" to consult with the public on proposals in the White Paper, which was published last month.
The union said the plans would bring about the most fundamental changes to the way the NHS operated since it was created.
Unison said 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", which the union maintained was unlawful.
Officials argued that no steps should have been taken to implement the changes until the public had been given the opportunity to comment on them.
Karen Jennings, Unison's head of health, said: "I find it incredible that the NHS chief executive would say he believes there is no legal duty on the secretary of state to consult on the merits of the proposals in the White Paper.
"The White Paper contains sweeping changes to the NHS and how it should be run. The NHS constitution enshrines the principle that the public, staff and unions have an absolute right to be consulted, and that means not only on how the proposals are to be implemented, but also whether they should go ahead in the first place. The Department for Health's refusal to recognise this clear and important legal duty leaves us no option but to issue legal proceedings as a matter of urgency."
Unison claimed the White Paper opened the door to privatisation of the health service, warning it would plunge the NHS into "chaos".
Unison criticised plans to cut back on bureaucracy and do away with Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities while allowing the "proliferation" of GP consortia and giving billions of pounds to "untried, untested and probably private sector-led" organisations.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham backed Unison, saying: "There is no democratic mandate for the break-up of the NHS. I don't believe there are many, if any, of the seven million people who voted Lib Dem who support the Government's plans. As the Coalition Agreement explicitly ruled out a top-down NHS reorganisation, these dangerous plans represent one of the biggest and quickest U-turns in political history."