Uk's largest health board forced to make u-turn on closure of consultant led obstetric services in North Wales, after judicial review proceedings backed by the British Medical Association.
Cummings & Roberts v Betsi Cadwaladr university health board, Chris Ruane (former mp) intervening
In February 2015, the BCUHB Board made a decision to close the consultant led obstetric service at Glan Clywd hospital for a minimum period of 12 months. This was despite the board recognising that the closure involved a substantial service change. The board proceeded without public consultation and embargoed the paper proposing closure until mid way through the board meeting at which the crucial decision was taken.
The closure decision caused a public outcry triggering mass protests across the region and attracting criticism in the National Assembly. The Claimants argued that the decision would have a severe impact on the delivery of emergency maternity and neonatal services to a significant sector of the population in North Wales, including those in areas of high social and economic deprivation.
In May 2015, part way through the hearing Mrs Justice Davies injuncted the Board from implementing their closure decision. In June 2015, the health board was placed in special measures, and its chief executive who was a primary architect of the closure strategy was suspended.
Following a significant disclosure exercise, the health board capitulated shortly before the hearing listed for 6 and 7 July, accepting that the closure decision should be revoked and that it should undertake a process of public consultation in full conformity with its statutory obligations, including the need to have special regard to disadvantaged groups. That consultation would necessarily include close engagement with clinicians delivering patient care.
Unusually, this public law challenge was backed by the British Medical Association who were keen to ensure that the clinicians' voice should be heard in health board decisions, affecting the delivery of care to their patients.
The case raises issues which are likely to become increasingly prevalent as NHS bodies seek to drive through decisions to reconfigure services in the face of significant public opposition.
For media coverage of the decision, please see:
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