In just two days’ time Unite GPs will be making a stand. The protest is against GP practices being taken over by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation – branded as ‘the accelerating privatisation of the NHS by stealth’ by Unite – and is being held in London on Thursday (April 22).
Campaigners, including members of Unite’s Doctors in Unite (DiU) group, will be staging a socially-distanced protest outside Centene’s UK subsidiary Operose, that recently took over the privately-owned AT Medics set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and which now runs 37 GP practices across London.
The protest, conforming to Covid-19 regulations, will be at 77 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6XB between 15.00-16.00 on Thursday (April 22).
Also scheduled to attend will be former Labour leader and MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn and Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse.
Unite, with a 100,000 members in the health service, has hit out at ‘a culture of Tory cronyism that is rapidly enveloping the NHS’ and called for an urgent independent inquiry into the ever-expanding lobbying scandal engulfing the NHS and its impact on the accelerating pace of health service privatisation.
The call for an inquiry – with its recommendations cemented into law – follows on from the revelation that health secretary and social care secretary Matt Hancock met former premier David Cameron and financier Lex Greensill for a private drink in 2019 to discuss a new payment scheme for the NHS.
“Ministers and senior NHS executives have repeatedly mouthed the mantra that the NHS is not being privatised,” commented Doctors in Unite chair Jackie Applebee.
“But now we have the case of a huge swathe of English general practice, including the data of nearly half a million patients, being handed over to US health insurance giant Centene – with a breath-taking lack of transparency and openness.
“Tory politicians and their outriders in the media roll out the tired old trope that all general practices are private, but this is disingenuous and they know it.
“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,” she added.
‘Steadily sold off’
Applebee continued, “The public needs to wake-up to the fact the NHS that they so value and which has been the lynchpin of the successful vaccination programme is being steadily sold off to profit-hungry healthcare companies – in this case one whose headquarters is in America.
“This is another prime example of the accelerating privatisation of the NHS by stealth and Unite is spot-on to call for an independent inquiry into the wider lobbying scandal engulfing the NHS which emanates from a desire by profiteers to get their hands on lucrative health service contracts.
“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 pale shadows of themselves,” she concluded.
By Shaun Noble