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Whittington Health v Ryhurst: Lawyers clash over 'nonsense' allegations about decision to drop estates contract

PUBLISHED: 10:06 20 December 2019

Defend the Whittington Coalition campaigners protesting outside of the High Court. Picture: Sam Volpe

Defend the Whittington Coalition campaigners protesting outside of the High Court. Picture: Sam Volpe

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The decision to drop Ryhurst from a contract to manage the Whittington Hospital's estates transformation created a "quite ridiculous situation", the High Court heard on Thursday.

In her closing speech, barrister Sarah Hannaford QC representing the contractor said "there was clearly unequal treatment" towards Ryhurst and the June 2018 decision not to go forward with the 10 year contract was based on "perceived links" to the Grenfell Tower fire.

She said the hypothetical situation of the other bidder for the strategic estates partnership (SEP) contract - Cityheart - winning the bid had to be considered. After explaining that like Cityheart, Ryhurst itself had not been involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, she told Judge Stephen Davies: "There's no sense that Cityheart would have not been proceeded with because of perceived Grenfell links."

The trust dispute the allegations of unequal treatment, which would breach procurement law, saying its decision-making was "clearly rational".

Jason Coppel QC, on behalf of Whittingotn Health, began his closing remarks by explaining corporate decision-making relied upon a board officially taking a decision at meetings, and any personal opinions of the board members before that were not relevant.

He added: "The claimant has had to say the trust has engaged in a deliberate exercise in concealment of having the reasons. The allegation can only be that board members have acted dishonestly."

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He said this was "nonsense" and the trust's board were "nothing but conscientous public servants who have been accused of misconduct".

Ms Hannaford also attacked the decision-making of the board of the Whittington Health NHS Trust. Referring to the decision to end the procurement being taken on the back of a two page report, she said: "It's completely astonishing. It's flimsy. There's no data or stats, no back up."

She added: "Two of the four considerations in the report deal with Grenfell. That's unequal treatment.

"The outcome was known in advance. They knew where they were going and they got there."

Ms Hannaford added this had created the "quite ridiculous situation" where the Ryhurst couldn't be dropped while there was another bidder in play, but could be afterwards.

Ryhurst are seeking £14m in damages from the trust, claiming

The trial ended on December 19, the judge is expected to issue a ruling early in the new year.

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