24 April 2021
Thirty of so protestors turned out a couple of days ago on April 22nd, in Hackney Wick at Trowbridge surgery to condemn the creeping takeover of our NHS by private companies. Trade unionists from the trades council and Unite, Hackney North Labour Party, and other activists all participated, reports Dave Kellaway. In this case, the private company is Operose Health which is a subsidiary of the US health insurance giant, the Centene Corporation.
On the same day, Jeremy Corbyn joined protesters at the national offices Operose in Central London.
In February 2021, NHS campaigners discovered that 49 GP(General Practice) surgeries, under 37 contracts, had just been taken over by Operose Health. Added to the 21 surgery contracts already held by Operose, this almost certainly leaves the Centene Corporation as the largest provider of GP services in the English NHS.
In a March letter to Hancock, also signed by Camden council leader Cllr Georgia Gould and Islington counterpart Cllr Richard Watts, Mayor of Hackney Glanville noted that the transfer of control from AT Medics, which runs the surgeries in question, to Operose/Centene had happened with “alarming speed, with little public scrutiny or patient consultation, and little or no involvement of council partners or local patient groups”
The letter continues (from Hackney Citizen, April 20th):
“Ultimately, responsibility must fall with central government for its longstanding failure to protect the NHS from private companies intent on buying up our health services."
“Despite assurances that the service offered by GPs at these practices will not change, already there are troubling signs. Recent news that the board of AT Medics has been entirely replaced by employees of Centene suggests that changes are in fact well underway."
“As a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, Centene Corporation is ultimately answerable to its shareholders, who will expect it to maximise profits. For GPs, this will likely lead to further competition for patients between surgeries – which is neither desirable nor an effective use of precious healthcare resources.”
13 of these surgery sites are in North East London
Operose has been buying up surgeries run on ‘Alternative Provider’contracts. Since 2004, under Blair’s Labour government, these have allowed private companies to run some surgeries on rolling five-year contracts while building chains and making profits for shareholders.
In the latest takeover, primary care commissioners failed to involve local councils, patients, the general public, or even their own committee members, in the decision to allow NHS contracts to be passed on to a US company.
Yet, large-scale private companies have a dire record when it comes to running UK GP surgeries. They cut staff and services and pull out of contracts early if they can’t make enough profit.
In the US and the Spanish state, Centene companies have been accused of fraud, profiteering, and mismanagement.
Meanwhile, Operose Health and Centene Director, Samantha Jones, began work as a special advisor to Boris Johnson on 1st April 2021.
Trump managed to make unwelcome headlines for the Government by revealing that the NHS would be a target for a US-UK trade deal. KONP has responded to this with a petition demanding the Government excludes the NHS from any trade treaty. So long as NHS services are traded on the market no one can exclude any providers from bidding or protect the NHS from takeover by US healthcare and insurance multinationals. The proposed new NHS Integrated Care Provider (ICPs) organisations, which are set to be procured through £multi-billion long-term Integrated Care Provider Contracts are designed to be particularly attractive to these healthcare giant predators. Please add your name to the KONP/Change petition demanding the Government excludes the NHS from Trade Treaties.
The Covid pandemic has once again exposed the contrast between privately run corporate operations like the SERCO test and trace fiasco and the successful NHS-run vaccination programme. We need to eliminate all private interests from our NHS.
We want our NHS back!
Help us get Centene out of general practice and the NHS.
Sign the petition at weownit.org.uk/act-now/stop-sell-49-gp-practices
Write to your MP and councillors.
If you are a trade union or Labour Party member raise the issue in your local branch
If you are a resident in Hackney please do consider supporting the protest at Hackney Town Hall.
Find/join/support your local Keep Our NHS Public group at:
[much of the above reproduces the excellent leaflet produced by NE London Save Our NHS as well as other material from their site. It is an umbrella group for local health campaigns and is affiliated with Keep our NHS Public]