London GP practices takeover challenged

Takeover of London GP practices by US health insurance giant Centene could face judicial review

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The takeover of GP practices in London by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation could be the subject of a judicial review, Unite the union has said.

Campaigners, including members of Doctors in Unite (DiU), have ‘crowdfunded’ about £40,000 towards a possible judicial review regarding the recent takeover by Centene’s UK subsidiary Operose of the privately-owned AT Medics set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and which runs 37 GP practices across London.

The campaigners are waiting to hear if all the legal hurdles have been crossed and the case can proceed on the basis of the lack of transparency.

To drive the message home, campaigners will be staging a socially-distanced demonstration over Centene’s takeover outside the Department of Health and Social Care, 39 Victoria St, London SW1H 0EU at 6pm on Monday July 5 – the NHS’ 73rd birthday.

Scheduled to attend the protest are former Labour leader and MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn; Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy; and Labour’s health spokesperson on the Greater London Authority Dr Onkar Sahota.

Doctors in Unite chair Jackie Applebee said, “Ministers and senior NHS executives have repeatedly mouthed the mantra that the NHS is not being privatised, but that is patently not true as the awarding of lucrative contracts to private healthcare firms continues apace.

“We are now hoping to test this policy with a judicial review as to why a huge swathe of English general practice, including the data of nearly half a million patients, was  handed over to US health insurance giant Centene – with a breath-taking lack of transparency and openness,” she added. “We have been told by the lawyers that we have a strong case.

“The new health and social care secretary Sajid Javid needs to be made aware of the strong groundswell of public opinion against the accelerating pace of  NHS privatisation presided over by his disgraced predecessor Matt Hancock and he should immediately reverse the hiving off of NHS services to profit-hungry healthcare companies, such as Centene,” Applebee continued.

“There is a world of difference between a multinational corporation that operates to make a profit, often by cutting staff and services, so that it can pay dividends to shareholders; and local GPs who are very much part of the NHS ‘family’ and provide services from a budget fixed by the Treasury.

“The public needs to wake-up to the fact the NHS, whose 73rd anniversary we celebrate on Monday (5 July), is being steadily sold off to profit-hungry healthcare companies – in this case one whose headquarters is in America,” she went on to say.

“The public values the NHS deeply, especially given its pivotal role in the successful roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme, so now is a time to draw a line in the sand to preserve and cherish the NHS as an organisation free at the point of delivery to all those in need.

“If we are not vigilant, these founding principles of the NHS in 1948 will become mere ghosts of themselves.”

By Shaun Noble

Pic by Mark Thomas – from DiU protest in April

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