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Bristol CCG told to retract 'misleading' statement in legal dispute

Lawyers write to Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group telling them to retract their statement or face further legal action.

Posted on 11 June 2014

Lawyers have reacted angrily to the announcement by Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that a legal action against them had been ‘dropped’ and have confirmed that they will be writing to the authority for them to retract their statement. 

Bristol CCG, which oversees a health budget worth £500m and is responsible for the commissioning of healthcare services for the population of Bristol, were forced to make a series of substantial changes to its policy on patient and public engagement following the threat of legal action.  

Leigh Day, acting for the local campaign group Protect our NHS, issued proceedings against Bristol CCG last month, for its failure to put in place arrangements to ensure patients and the public are involved in decisions taken by the CCG about NHS services in the Bristol area. In response the CCG has now agreed to make substantial changes to its policies. 

However in a statement released today (11 June 2014) the CCG said: “We are pleased to be able to announce that Protect our NHS have now dropped their legal challenge against the CCG. The matter has not been decided by a court and no finding of unlawful behaviour by the CCG has been made.” 

Rosa Curling from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day, who represents Protect Our NHS has accused them of ‘misleading’ the public by suggesting that the legal challenge did not achieve its objective. 

Ms Curling said: “Given that this case is all about communicating openly with the public it is very disappointing that the CCG have decided to issue a media statement which is misleading in relation to this legal action. We will be writing to them asking for the statement to be withdrawn. 

“The Judicial review proceedings we took were to expose the fact that the CCG had breached its legal duties to involve patients in its decision making. 

“They initially denied that they had acted unlawfully but, once proceedings were issued, Bristol CCG backed down, and agreed to revise a series of its policies and its core constitution to bring them into line with the law. 

“As part of the settlement the CCG have also agreed to pay 80% of the legal costs as part of the settlement.” 

A furious Steve Timmins of Protect Our NHS said 

"The CCG’s press release is clearly misleading. The CCG admitted that they had acted unlawfully and, as terms of the settlement, they have agreed to revise a range of their public engagement policies. 

“They originally threatened us with a legal costs order but, after they accepted they had acted unlawfully, they agreed to pay 80% of our legal costs. It was therefore not necessary for us to go to court to prove the CCG acted unlawfully because they admitted it and so we withdrew the challenge.” 

He added 

"It is completely misleading to suggest that the CCG would have taken all these steps if we had not started court proceedings. Their initial stance was to reject all our complaints. They are only revising their policies and changing their constitution because we pointed out that they were breaking the law. “How can the CCG expect the public to trust them to run our health services if they cannot even fairly report the outcome of a court challenge brought against them?"