By Anne North
Health campaigners trying to stop Cornwall Council taking over the NHS have failed in their bid to stage a Supreme Court challenge. The court’s denial of permission to hear an appeal marks the end of the legal fight and attention now swings back to the political arena.
County Hall is trying to set up what is now called an Integrated Care Partnership, with ultimate responsibility for commissioning health services falling to the council’s chief executive, Kate Kennally.
When the plan was first unveiled in 2016 it was called an Accountable Care Organisation, and later rebranded as an Accountable Care System and then an Integrated Care System. The shake-up stems from Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) targeted at 44 areas across England.
In Cornwall, in 2017, Cornwall Council condemned the local STP public consultation as “not fit for purpose” but County Hall chiefs have ploughed on regardless. Last year they agreed that once they have full control they aim to scrap national standards of care and embrace their own “self-regulation.”
Critics have dubbed the new structure “Kennally Care,” warning that it exposes Cornwall’s patients to tough new budgetary limits and greater risk of privatisation. But the council’s political leadership believes it introduces an element of local democracy, claiming it is integral to the Devolution Deal which is supposed to pass powers from Whitehall to Truro. The council also has its eye on a greatly increased role for the voluntary sector, and private companies, through “self-selecting” local Integrated Care Area Boards.
In Cornwall, the shake-up has been characterised by frequent re-branding and the STP board is now called the Shaping Our Future Transformation Board, an unelected body comprised largely of NHS and council officials.
The reorganisation of the NHS in this way has never been scrutinised by conventional Parliamentary legislation, other than a Statutory Instrument, and this led to a legal challenge brought by the campaign group 999 Call for the NHS.
A Judicial Review has failed at every stage, and a bid to appeal to the Supreme Court has now been rejected. The campaign group said: “This is extremely disappointing news and, as you can imagine, we are feeling extremely sad that the legal fight has ended this way. The legal team are also extremely disappointed but have encouraged us to keep fighting as they were impressed with not only our efforts but the support we received from fellow campaigners up and down the country.”
The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal saying the case “does not raise an arguable point of law.”