“Judge agrees costs capping in action over NHS accountable care organisations”

“Campaigners including scientist Professor Stephen Hawking have secured a costs order for their judicial review of the government’s planned creation of accountable care organisations (ACO) in the NHS.

In January the claimants gained permission to bring the case against Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the National Health Service Commissioning Board.

Cheema-Grubb J held that the crowd funded campaign met the statutory test for a costs capping order, being a group of responsible individuals acting in the public interest without a personal interest in the outcome.

The campaigners will challenge the lawfulness of accountable care organisations, which they argue Parliament has not given the Department of Health the power to create.

During the January hearing the court declined to cap costs and the campaigners feared they could face a £450,000 bill were they to lose.

Cheema-Grubb J said it was highly likely that some of the concerns raised in the judicial review had a high degree of public interest and accepted evidence that the case would be dropped in the absence of a cost order.

The claimants could not be criticised for being unreasonable in not proceeding in a case with open-ended potential liabilities, the judge said.

She also noted that Mr Hunt and the NHS were publicly funded through taxpayers’ money in defending the case.

Under the order, if the campaigners lose their liability for Mr Hunt’s and the NHS’s costs would be capped at £80,000 each.

If they won, the two defendants’ liability to pay their costs would be capped at £115,000.”