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Bunzl Healthcare

This judicial review concerns the requirements of the Public Contracts Regulations, and challenges the defendant’s decision to directly award a public supply contract for PPE to Bunzl Healthcare as breaching both transparency requirements and the common law duty to act without apparent bias. In July 2021 the claim was given permission to proceed, but was then stayed until recently.

Prior to transfer to the Practice Helen Fry successfully obtained a reciprocal costs capping order of £300,000 against significant opposition from the government (which had already incurred costs of £600,000, expected to reach total costs of £1.2m, and argued that the case was not suitable for costs capping). 

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In Autumn 2021, the Immensa laboratory in Wolverhampton – which had been engaged by the government to provide PCR testing services as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic – produced some 43,000 false negative Covid-19 test results, which led to infected people inadvertently failing to isolate, and caused an estimated 1,000 additional deaths.

We brought judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on behalf of Good Law Project and four individuals who were affected by the lab failure. Our grounds were that he failed in his duties to:

(a) do proper due diligence before contracting with the laboratory, which did not have the necessary accreditations; and,
(b) properly supervise the safety of testing in the labs.

The claimants pushed for the publication of a serious untoward incident report which had been commissioned by the government into the incident, which the government agreed to do in November 2022.

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Ventilator Challenge

We acted for Good Law Project in a challenge to three government departments for failing to publish in full contracts awarded to companies pursuant to the “ventilator challenge”, worth a total of over £200million.

The case relied on the precedent established in Good Law Project’s earlier claim, R (oao Good Law Project & Ors) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care [2021] EWHC 346 (Admin), in which it successfully argued that the government had breached its duty to publish procurement contracts.

The case builds on the extensive work Good Law Project has done in relation to government transparency in general, and in the context of Covid-19 procurement in particular. The government confirmed in its reaction to our pre-action protocol letter that its failure to publish the contracts had been “a regrettable oversight”; it has now published them.

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