‘Save our GPs!’ Legal test on takeover of surgeries

Court to consider NHS campaigners’ challenge to NHS contracts put in hands of US giant

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 will consider the legality of the US takeover of dozens of National Health Service GP surgery contracts across the country – including one in Maida Vale – after a patient lodged an application for a judicial review this week, the Extra 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).

Our revelations in January showed how the ­Randolph Surgery was among the practices that had come under the control of Operose Health Limited without any public debate.

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 used by patients when surgeries are closed.

Patient Anjna Khurana, who is bringing the case

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

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 in Islington, where she is also councillor.

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.”

She 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 Westminster Extra 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 in No 10 to the 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 that it followed legal procurement rules and that patients would not notice any change in the day-to-day service from that 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.”

Related Articles