Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge against the government over plans they say will allow private companies to play a greater role in the NHS.
The announcement comes as the UK marks the 70th anniversary of the health service.
The legal action, brought against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by the JR4NHS group, was backed by Professor Stephen Hawking before his death in March.
Hawking had warned that introducing commercial companies to run parts of the health and social services would amount to an “attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS”.
Lawyers for the group argued against the planned introduction of accountable care organisations (ACOs) which the campaigners said “could easily be” for-profit companies.
Rejecting the campaign group’s case, Mr Justice Green said the policy was “lawful” and that – since the NHS decided to launch a consultation – the details remain a “work in progress”.
The judge said the campaigners will have an opportunity to make their arguments during the consultation and that Hunt will be “under a duty to consider them”.
Hunt’s Department of Health and Social Care rejected claims about ACOs as “irresponsible scaremongering”.
A consultation is due to be carried out on the contracting agreements for the ACOs, which supporters say will help to better co-ordinate care and improve patient services.
The judicial review was supported by the British Medical Association (BMA).