An attempt to spin out NHS services in Gloucestershire into a social enterprise will be challenged in the High Court today by a local resident.
Michael Lloyd, a retired railwayman from Stroud, will say that Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust failed to properly consider all its options before deciding to transfer more than 3,000 staff, including nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, into a new community interest company called Gloucestershire Care Services with an £80m-a-year contract. He is supported by a local campaign group, Stroud Against the Cuts.
Rosa Curling of Lloyd’s solicitors, Leigh Day and Co, said on the Stroud Against the Cuts website: "NHS Gloucestershire had a number of options open to it, some of which would allow the community services in the area to remain provided by an NHS body.
"They failed to properly consider these options and their subsequent decision to award the contract to the social enterprise company is therefore unlawful."
Jan Stubbings, chief executive of NHS Gloucestershire, said in a statement that she believed a social enterprise was the best kind of organisation to provide joined-up healthcare, and that the CIC’s membership model would give both staff and service users a greater say in how services were run.
"If successful and taken to its logical conclusion, the legal challenge would mean that community services would be competitively tendered, with the result that bodies, both within and outside the NHS, could respond," she said. "The challenge may therefore accelerate the very thing the challenger says he is opposed to – namely the services being provided by a body outside the NHS."
Several other PCTs have already successfully spun out community health services into social enterprises. It is estimated that about 25,000 staff have already moved from the NHS to social enterprises.