NHS legal review – update on our crack legal team!

Stethoscope

Photograph by diekatrin (Flickr)

Great news – we’ve raised enough money to bring in lawyers to go through the government’s NHS plans with a fine-toothed comb. We needed a minimum of £10,000 to get started – so far thousands of 38 Degrees members have together donated £38,767!

A team led by senior health lawyer Stephen Cragg has already started looking at the future of the government’s “duty to provide” a comprehensive health system. The legal team are already pouring over the NHS bill and all 180 amendments to establish if the government is trying to duck it’s “Duty to Provide” a comprehensive NHS and if so what that means. They’re also looking at other issues like how open to legal challenge decisions by new commissioning groups will be?

Next week, competition law specialists will start work looking at whether the plans could mean NHS privatisation.

This is an amazing example of people power in action – we have clubbed together to hire in the experts we need to help us protect our NHS.

The more we raise, the more we can do. More cash will mean we can spread the word about what the legal advice says. We can organise briefing events in Westminster for journalists and MPs. We can get in more experts to draft legal amendments to block threats to our NHS.

We’ve hit our first target – because thousands of us are passionate about doing all we can to protect our health service. Can you chip in more to help the campaign fund grow even bigger? You can make a secure donation here:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-legal-advice

FAQs

How much has been raised so far?
You can see the latest total here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-legal-advice at the time of writing £38,767 by 2470 people. The average donation so far is £15.69. Some 38 Degrees members have chipped in £1, others have chipped in £100. You can chip in whatever you can afford here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-legal-advice

What are our lawyers looking at?

– Will the health minister duck responsibility for our NHS? At the moment the buck stops with the minister, but it’s not clear if the new plans would change that by abolishing the legal “duty to provide” a comprehensive health service. [1]
– Will the new plans mean that private companies can use European competition law to start a gradual break-up of the NHS by making sure that competition on price is what matters – not the quality of the health care patients receive? [2]

When will the results be ready?

We’re working hard to get the legal opinions ready in time for when MPs come back from their summer break on September 5th. We’ll update the blog through August and September.

What are the press saying?
When we hit our first target, the Guardian newspaper reported it as evidence that “the government faces a summer of discontent over its NHS reforms”! Politicians will be watching our campaign fund grow – chip in now to show how determined we are to protect our NHS: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-legal-advice

Who will provide the legal opinion?
We’ve teamed up with public interest lawyer Peter Roderick and the group behind dutytoprovide.net to organise a legal team to investigate the “duty to provide”. Harrison Grant solicitors and the barrister Stephen Cragg will lead the investigation. Harrison Grant are experienced in providing legal advice to campaigning groups, charities and NGOs and Stephen Cragg has extensive expertise in health and public law. Once that is finished, we will commission experts to start a similar investigation into competition in the NHS.

How much will it cost?
Legal costs can explode but we’re confident we’re getting a good deal. The £10,000 will enable the experts to start work straight away and should fund their entire investigation. However, if more money is needed or if not all donations are spent all donors will be notified by e-mail. Full details of our donations policy are available on the website here: http://38degrees.org.uk/pages/donations-to-38-degrees

Why not get pro-bono free legal advice?
Because we can’t be sure it will be delivered in time to make a difference. £10,000 is a lot of money. But for this type of legal work it’s cheap and by paying these experts we can make sure it’s delivered quickly.

When will the legal opinions be ready?
Hopefully within the next month – the key deadline is the next set of crunch votes in parliament currently scheduled for early September.

I’m a lawyer – I can help
Great! Please get in touch. You can contact the 38 Degrees office here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/contact-us

Notes:
[1] Debbie Abrahams MP says, “the duty of the Secretary of State for Health to secure and provide a comprehensive health service – fundamentally, the original duty of the Secretary of State – has not been reinstated in full”, http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/07/debbie-abrahams-mp-health-and-social-care-bill-recommitted-to-parliament/
The BMA says the government has failed to satisfy their concerns with regard to the duty of the Health Secretary to provide a comprehensive NHS, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/28/doctors-reject-health-bill-changes Lady Williams tells the NHS Confederation conference that Lib Dems are still concerned about how clear the duty of the Secretary of State for Health to provide a comprehensive NHS is, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bdfd6176-a995-11e0-a04a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1SZCaXasw (subscription needed)
[2] ”The government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities, the health secretary announced today, increasing fears that it will inevitably lead to the “privatisation of the health service”” says The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/19/nhs-services-open-to-competition?CMP=twt_gu. NHS Bill changes do not alter government plans to hand private firms huge swathes of the NHS, says the Mirror, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/2011/06/25/andrew-lansley-attacked-for-new-nhs-privatisation-plans-115875-23224692/ Debbie Abrahams MP says that “[opening the NHS up to EU competition law] will only increase income and healthcare inequalities, which are both known to damage economic growth” http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/07/debbie-abrahams-mp-health-and-social-care-bill-recommitted-to-parliament/