Reconfiguring services: the NHS

As the squeeze on public funding continues, commissioners have difficult decisions to make about services — which to continue, which to commission and which to stop. Service users and providers are more inclined than ever before to take a case to court to try to stop or reverse decisions to change or decommission services. Providers attempting to reconfigure services face the same challenges.

The law requires commissioners (and providers) to involve the public when making changes to the provision of NHS healthcare. NHS bodies discharge this duty by carrying out consultations. This is an area fraught with difficulty and the potential for legal challenge.

There have been numerous reported cases in the last three years, where commissioners and other public bodies have faced a judicial review brought by individuals or groups angered by service changes. Not all of these have been NHS related — some, for example, relate to cuts in library services…

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