Nascot Lawn’s stay of execution following ruling by top judge

Nascot Lawn.

Nascot Lawn. - Credit: Archant

The NHS has been told to play nicely with others after losing a High Court battle on their decision to close a respite centre for children in West Herts.

Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) announced last spring they were going to pull £650,000 funding from Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford, which provides short breaks for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

The shock announcement meant the centre would be unable to continue operating.

It was followed by a public campaign by the children’s parents to persuade HVCCG and Herts County Council, who would have taken over respite care for the youngsters, to keep the centre open.

In November, HVCCG finally decided to pull its support so the parents enlisted law firm Irwin Mitchell to apply for a judicial review of the decision at the High Court.

Last Thursday Mr Justice Mostyn ruled HVCCG had not properly consulted with Herts County Council, although they had properly involved the public in their decision, had assessed the children’s needs comprehensively, and had not broken equality or human rights laws.

The judge said the CCG must now comply with its legal duty by formally consulting with Herts County Council.

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If the two bodies cannot agree on the future of the centre, the council can refer the matter to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In response to the ruling, HVCCG’s chair Dr Nicholas Small said: “This decision we made back in November to stop funding services at Nascot Lawn was one of the hardest we have had to make as a board and we did this in the context of a very challenging financial environment, having to assess priorities in order to meet the financial requirements placed on us by law. That financial challenge continues.”

HVCCG has to cut £45m each year to get back in the black, part of which was going to be funded by pulling money from Nascot Lawn.

The NHS body has also cut funding from IVF services and reduced prescriptions which can be found in the supermarket.

Dr Small continued: “What we now need to do, in acknowledgment of the judge’s ruling, is to take time over the next six weeks to formally consult with our colleagues at the council in the format the court has prescribed. We have started that process. Our consultation will remain thorough and genuine and results will be considered at a Herts Valleys CCG meeting in May.

“Whatever the outcome of this consultation and new decision, we continue to be concerned for the children and families who use Nascot Lawn respite services.

“Having made the decision last November, we had hoped this judicial review would bring the matter to a conclusion. We are committed to ensuring we comply with the judge’s ruling in full and we are keen to resolve this as soon as possible, so a greater level of certainty can be provided particularly to the children and their families.”

A Herts County Council spokesperson said: “We note and agree with the judgement handed down today that the services provided at Nascot Lawn are health provision and there is an obligation on HVCCG to consult with the county council on any decision made about its future under The Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Board and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013.

“In light of the decision of the judge to quash the decision made by HVCCG to cease funding for Nascot Lawn we hope we can now proceed to work in partnership to develop an integrated offer which will ensure these children and their families receive the respite provision that they need.”

Because of the court’s ruling, Nascot Lawn respite service will be funded by HVCCG until at least August 2018.