‘Victory’ for pen power in controversial GP surgeries takeover

Letters campaign forced rethink of US health giant deal, says group

Friday, 27th August 2021 — By Tom Foot

GP protest 2_photo-Simon Lamrock.jpg

Protests against the controversial US takeover of GP surgeries

CAMPAIGNERS who are fighting to overturn a US takeover of GP surgeries claimed an “incredible victory” this week after north London NHS chiefs said they would re-tender contracts earlier than planned.

The We Own It group says its persistent ­letter-writing campaign has forced North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group into a rethink. The CCG has announced it will seek fresh bids for two Islington GP practices next year, instead of in 2025 as previously expected.

We Own It said in a bulletin to supporters that “after months of pressure North Central London health leaders have decided to get Centene out … this is incredible news”.

In February, the Tribune broke the story of a change in control of dozens of surgeries across London and the south-east, including two in Islington and four in Camden.

Private provider AT Medics merged with Operose Health to form a new company that is wholly owned by the Centene Corporation.

It meant one of the biggest health insurance firms in America was put in control of NHS contracts to provide GP services in Mitchison Road Surgery and Hanley Practice.

We Own It campaign chief John Nwogbo said the group would now focus its attention on ousting Centene from Camden surgeries, following the “success” in Islington.

He said: “It is our demands – to get Centene out – which we believe forced them to make this decision in Islington. So far we have organised hundreds of people to email the North Central London CCG on this issue. We know this does have an effect.

“The same thing has happened in Hammersmith and Fulham, where we have been campaigning hard. It is the areas where we have been doing this where the contracts are being renewed earlier.”

Concerns had been growing among campaigners about whether locally focused action can make any difference, faced with such a big overseas corporation and the NHS bureaucratic management system. In March, the chief executive of Operose Health, Samantha Jones, quit to become the top health adviser to PM Boris Johnson.

Since the Tribune broke the story about the takeover, questions have been put to the health secretary in the House of Commons by the shadow health minister.

There have been several public meetings and Islington campaigners later launched a judicial review against the decision, arguing it was made without the public being notified. More than £40,000 has been raised to help the legal challenge.

An NCL spokeswoman said the contracts decision had been announced at a board meeting last Thursday.

She added: “At their meeting in June 2021, the NCL CCG Primary Care Commissioning Committee in Common discussed four practices with Alternative Personal Medical Services (APMS) contracts due to expire at the end of July 2021. This included two practices in Enfield and two AT Medics practices in Islington: Mitchison Road Surgery and Hanley Primary Care Centre.

“Following a thorough strategic review of each contract, the committee decided to extend the contracts of all four practices for a one-year period.”

Operose Health declined to comment.


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