Secretary of State for Social Services, West Midlands Regional Health Authority and Birmingham Area Health Authority, ex parte Hincks [1980] 1 BMLR 93 (CA)

Health Service – resources – rationing

This was an application by orthopaedic patients at a Birmingham Hospital for declarations against Secretary of State & the Health Authorities, that they were in breach of their duties under National Health Service Act 1977, section 1 (to provide a comprehensive health service) and section 3 (to provide such accommodation facilities and services, to such extent as deemed necessary), because patients had been waiting longer for treatment than was medically advisable, and that delay had been due to cost. The court ruled that, in exercising his judgement, the Secretary of State was entitled to take into account the resources available to him and the demands on those resources. Section 3(1) of the 1977 Act did not impose an absolute duty to provide the specified services. The Secretary of State was entitled to have regard to the resources made available to him under current government economic policy.

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