Judges set to rule on NHS campaigners’ ‘save GPs’ challenge

Patient leads judicial review bid after US giant took over surgeries

Friday, 21st May 2021 — By Tom Foot

GP protest 2_photo-Simon Lamrock.jpg

NHS protesters took their campaign to Operose’s Fitzrovia offices in April

HIGH court judges are set to consider the legality of the US takeover of dozens of NHS GP surgery contracts across the country – including two in Islington– after a patient lodged an application for a judicial review this week, the Tribune can reveal.

A crowdfunding page has been set up to raise £25,000 to meet the cost of the legal challenge against North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (NCL).

The Tribune revealed in January how the Mitchison Road Surgery in Canonbury and the Hanley Primary Care Centre were among the practices that had come under the control of Operose Health Limited without public debate.

The King’s Cross Road Surgery – which although located one road into Camden has many patients from Islington on its books – was also included in the takeover.

Operose is fully owned and bankrolled by the Centene Corporation – one of the biggest health companies in the United States.
It has also taken over the out-of-hours service, which is used by all Islington patients when surgeries are closed.

In theory, the deal could be quashed and contracts put out to tender if the judicial review is successful.

Patient Anjna Khurana, who is bringing the case

The legal case rests on whether NCL fully assessed the finances of the company, was properly transparent with the public about the “change in control” from the previous operator, AT Medics, and the potential for patients’ data to be transferred to the US.

Professor Sue Rich­ards, who is on the national executive of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign group, said: “The claim is very strong on what NCL failed to do.

“The CCG [Clinical Commissioning Group] is a statutory body. It is there to protect the interest of patients. It is in their interests that patients get proper care.”

The claimant in the case, Anjna Khurana, who is backed by several campaign groups and represented by law firm Leigh Day, is a patient at one of the affected surgeries and a councillor at the Town Hall.

She said: “When I read about it in your newspaper I thought, hang on, that’s my surgery. I was quite taken aback by the lack of transparency. This is NHS money and it should mean that these surgeries are run for the patients.”

Cllr Khurana added: “I’m not trying to be a martyr, this is bigger than me. When there is something that can be done, one should do it. So I’m pleased to be involved.”

A protest was held outside the Operose offices in Fitzrovia in April.

Since the Tribune broke the story in January it has been raised in the House of Commons by the shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth.

The chief executive of Operose Health has since quit to take up a new position as the most senior health adviser to prime minister Boris Johnson.

A high court judge will decide whether to proceed with the application but campaigners firmly expect it to be heard.

Leigh Day solicitor Anna Dews said: “My client was not aware of the authorisation decision until after it had taken place and she is worried that the CCG decided not to consult or otherwise involve patients and misdirected itself as to the correct legal test for authorising the decision.”

Operose Health has repeatedly said it followed legal procurement rules and that patients would not notice any change in the day-to-day service from under AT Medics.

An NCL CCG statement said: “We are committed to offering residents high quality, safe and accessible care.

“The same high quality services will continue to be delivered by the same staff at AT Medics practices to residents across North Central London.”

To get involved: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-our-gp-practices-being-sold-off-to-centene/

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