Unison has won the right to take legal action against health secretary Andrew Lansley for what it alleges is a lack of public consultation on the NHS white paper.

The union has been given permission to seek judicial review of the steps taken to implement ‘Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS’.

It sought permission to seek a judicial review after NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson wrote to NHS chief executives urging them to start implementing the paper immediately.

The union wrote to Sir David arguing that his action was unlawful because it went against a number of legal commitments to consultation.

Sir David responded that he would write to chief executives reminding them not to implement the white paper proposals until its consultation period ended.

However, he stressed that the consultation was limited to how – rather than whether – the proposals should be implemented.

The union was given leave to seek a judicial review by Mr Justice Collins in the High Court today.

In a judgement, he said: “The minister’s statement is certainly capable of being construed as limited to implementation.

"It is necessary to bear in mind that Parliament can and will decide on policy whether or not there has been any particular consultation.

“However, there are arguments that may persuade a judge that there was a need for wider consultation based on what has been said and the provisions of the 2009 Act coupled with previous governmental statements.”

Karen Jennings, Unison head of health said: “We are pleased that we had such a positive response to our request for a judicial review. We believe we have a very strong case and look forward to putting our evidence before the court.

“The public’s right to be consulted on changes to our health service is enshrined in law. And that means not only on how any proposals are to be implemented, but also whether they should go ahead in the first place.

“These drastic changes to the NHS were not in any manifesto – the public did not vote for them. They come from the government’s ideological standpoint that the market knows best.”