Editorial comment: Relief at win for Whittington

Whittington Health NHS Trust. Picture: PA WIRE

Whittington Health NHS Trust. Picture: PA WIRE - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

It is easy to over-complicate the court case that saw the Whittington Health NHS Trust forced to defend its decision to ditch a contractor in the High Court.

But in reality the case was a simple one - was our NHS able to take a reasonable decision and change its mind?

The answer from Judge Stephen Davies, thankfully, was yes.

The affair shows the peril faced when entering into deals with private companies - who are motivated by the market, rather than by a 70-year commitment to free high-quality healthcare.

Ryhurst, the contractor, had, it was revealed during the court proceedings, hoped to use its management role in revamping the Whittington Trust's estate to gain further contracts for its sister companies.

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Whether once the deal had been signed - it never was - hospital bosses would have been able to do much about this will always be an unknown, but that an NHS Trust could be beholden to a network of private companies is precisely what the rightly vociferous stakeholders - the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) and MPs like Jeremy Corbyn - were worried about.

DWHC was on the money, again.

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Ryhurst told the court it is entirely separate from its sister companies. But when these firms all fall under the same Rydon Group banner, and admit to creating work for one another, it seems clear that even if necessary legal divisions are in place, there is, as the judge described, often a "community of interest".

And no NHS body should find itself caught up in a "community of interest". In this case the company's execs continue to appear before the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

This sort of convoluted private arrangement should never have been agreed. But given it was, we should all be relieved the High Court has held our NHS is well within its rights to say: "Actually, no thanks."

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