When will Bristol CCG stop this farce? Chapter Two in “The Continuing Story of a Misleading Press Release”


June 13, 2014 by Protect Our NHS

Leigh Day
Priory House,
25 St John’s Lane,
London EC1M4LB
Tel: 020 7650 1200
Fax: 020 7253 4433
DX 53326 Clerkenwell

Fran Mussellwhite
Bevan Brittan
Kings Orchard
1 Queen Street

Date: 13 June 2014

Dear Sirs,

Re: Anthony Horwood and Hilary Saunders v NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group

Can you please accept this letter on behalf of our clients as a formal complaint under the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 about the content of your client’s Press Release dated 10 June 2014.

The basis for the complaint is that the Press Release was misleading in:

a) Suggesting that the claimant’s had “dropped” the judicial review proceedings “in full”. This was misleading because it implied that the proceedings were withdrawn without the CCG undertaking a substantial policy review, which is precisely what the claimants had asked the CCG to undertake;

b) The CCG had only made “some” contribution to the claimant’s legal costs whereas the CCG agree to pay 80% of our client’s costs;

c) The press statement was misleading as it suggested that the outcome achieved by the claimants could have been achieved by a “constructive dialogue”. This was inaccurate because our clients repeatedly attempted to engaged in dialogue with the CCG to persuade them to change their policies but this was met by an aggressive response by the CCG and their lawyers who denied that they had any obligation to amend any of their policies. Thus, contrary to the wholly false impression given in this press statement, there was no realistic possibility that these policy changes would have been achieved through dialogue; and

d) The Press Release was premature because the legal case was not ended until the order was made by the Judge.

Whilst our clients have little confidence that this complaint will be fairly adjudicated upon by the CCG, they accept that an adjudication by the CCG is a necessary step before any complaint can be made to NHS England and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Our clients thought that there was a possibility that a measure of trust was beginning to be built with the CCG but, as your clients must now realise, misleading press releases of the type sent on 10 June together with a continuing denial that the CCG has acted unlawfully with regard to its PPI policies have done considerable damage to the trust our clients had attempted to establish.

Regrettably that will mean that our clients will scrutinise the documents that your clients produce in response to the consent order with considerable care. If the CCG still does not accept that its present arrangements are inadequate and hence are unlawful, there seems little chance that they will produce new policies that satisfy their legal obligations. That will only lead to another round of expensive and time consuming litigation.

Whilst senior managers and Board members come and go with depressing frequency in the NHS, our clients are long term residents of Bristol and need to rely on NHS services for many years going forward. They therefore have a long term interest in making sure that the CCG puts robust arrangements in place that fully satisfy their legal obligations. Misguided and tendentious actions such as the issuing of a misleading press release will only strengthen the resolve of our clients to hold your clients to account for the full discharge of their legal obligations.

It seems to us that your clients may have completely underestimated the level of anger that the CCG’s misleading press release has generated. Our clients can only express the hope that, notwithstanding the state of continuing denial adopted by your clients, they will produce new policies that properly discharge their legal obligations and then scrupulously follow the policies when making commissioning decisions.

If they fail to abide by their legal obligations, any unlawful action will inevitably lead to a further round of litigation. We hope that this can be avoided but, given that commitments to act lawfully were only made by the CCG when faced by litigation, the track record in this case does not give our clients any grounds for optimism.

We look forward to hearing from you in response to our clients’ complaint.

Yours faithfully,

Leigh Day

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