Professor Stephen Hawking has joined a lawsuit aimed at preventing greater privatisation of the National Health Service.
The revered professor, who has been vocal about the dismantling of the NHS, added his name to legal action seeking to prevent the establishment of “accountable care organisations” (ACOs) in the NHS, which threaten to ration certain resources within the system.
Trade Union BMA has warned the ACOs ‘risk the potential for non-NHS providers taking over the provision of care for entire health economies’.
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is keen to implement them regardless.
Speaking to the Guardian, Hawkins said: “I am concerned that accountable care organisations are an attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS.
“They have not been established by statute, and they appear to be being used for reducing public expenditure, for cutting services and for allowing private companies to receive and benefit from significant sums of public money for organising and providing services.”
The lawsuit is intended to prevent the introduction of ACOs without them first being subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
“I am joining this legal action because the NHS is being taken in a direction which I oppose, as I stated in August, without proper public and parliamentary scrutiny, consultations and debate,” said Professor Hawking.
“I want the attention of the people of England to be drawn to what is happening and for those who are entrusted with responsibility for the NHS to account openly for themselves in public, and to be judged accordingly.”
Hunt denies accusations that the NHS is being turned into a US-based insurance system.
The Department of Health said: “We strongly resist the misleading claims in this action; it is irresponsible scaremongering to suggest that Accountable Care Organisations are being used to support privatisation and harm the fundamental principles of the NHS.
“The NHS will remain a taxpayer-funded system free at the point of use; ACOs are simply about making care more joined-up between different health and care organisations.”