The High Court (HHJ Jarman QC sitting as a High Court Judge) has today handed down judgment quashing a decision by the Corby Clinical Commissioning Group (the CCG) to change the provision of health services provided by the Interested Party (Lakeside+) at the Corby Urgent Care Centre (CUCC) and to rename it a Same Day Access Hub. The facts of R (Buckingham) v NHS Corby Clinical Commissioning Group contain important lessons for other NHS bodies that are managing controversial changes to NHS services.
The CUCC is an urgent care centre which patients can attend on a walk-in basis, with face to face triage undertaken by clinicians. The CCG proposed to re-provision the CUCC into a same-day primary care service, accessed via a telephone system with triage undertaken by trained operators rather than clinicians.
The Claimant, a local health campaigner, challenged the decision on the basis that it breached the legitimate expectation of local residents that there would be a full public consultation on changes to the CUCC. Allowing the claim and quashing the decision, the Court found that the CCG had made “plain and unequivocal” promises to consult and that these promises gave rise to a legally enforceable procedural legitimate expectation. The Court found that the CCG had not shown any overriding reason to depart from those promises. In particular, the view of NHS England that public consultation was not necessary did not provide the sort of overriding duty or public interest necessary to override a legitimate expectation.
The Court also found that the CCG has breached its duty under s14Z2 of the NHS Act 2006 to involve patients in “the development and consideration of proposals… for changes in the commissioning arrangements where the implementation of the proposals would have an impact on the manner in which the services are delivered”. That duty required not just that the public were involved in the development or formulation of a proposal, but also that the public is involved in consideration of the proposal, which had not occurred.
The Court also agreed with Lakeside+ that the CCG had made its decision upon a material error of fact, namely the belief that there had been a comprehensive programme of engagement on the proposal, which there had not.