Ministers face a legal challenge over “sweeping” changes to the NHS with Unison applying for a judicial review, claiming that the public has not been consulted.
The union wants the High Court in London to rule that the public must have their say over “highly damaging” changes to the health service.
It claims the white paper published by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley took no account of the views of health workers or patients.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The NHS does not belong to the government, it belongs to the British people who have a moral and legal right to have their say in how the NHS is run and delivered.
“With breathtaking arrogance the government is riding roughshod over the public and trying to bulldoze through changes that will be the end of the NHS as we know it.
“This is crunch time for our NHS. The massive shake-up proposed in the White Paper came out of the blue. It was nowhere to be seen in the Conservative or Liberal Democrats’ election manifestos.
“It represents a massive £80bn gamble with taxpayers’ money, and the views of those who pay for it and use it are considered unimportant and irrelevant by the Secretary of State.
“We believe that the public, patients and staff have an absolute right to be consulted not just on how to implement any changes, but on whether they should be allowed to go ahead in the first place.”
Unison will ask the High Court to rule that the government has unlawfully denied the British people the right to determine the future of the NHS.