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Mitchison Road SurgeryA GP surgery in Finsbury Park that now belongs to giant US corporation Centene (Source: Islington Tribune)

NHS defenders are continuing to express fears about the takeover of GP surgeries in London and other parts of England by the giant US Centene Corporation. This week Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous added his support to the campaign to block this and similar takeovers of traditional GP practices by large companies focussed on maximising profits.

In an email to a member of the campaigning group Defend Enfield NHS the local MP wrote:

"I support calls for the Government to intervene to block this takeover, which is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services.

"As you know, Operose Health—a subsidiary of US insurance company Centene - has acquired AT Medics, which operates 37 GP practices across London. This will add to the 21 GP practices it already runs throughout England.

"This takeover happened without any patient consultation or public scrutiny and there are understandable concerns that this represents a stealth privatisation, with potentially huge implications for patient care."

Adding that he would be scrutinising future NHS legislation closely, Bambos Charalambous said he believed the Government should "step in to halt the transfer of GP practices to Centene, ensure it is fully scrutinised, and prevent takeovers like this happening in the future".

There are a number of troubling aspects to the takeover of the 37 London practices, which include several in north London (but none so far in Enfield). One is that there were irregulaties in the manner in which the takeover occurred surreptitiously - prompting lead cabinet members for health across all five north central London boroughs (including Enfield) to put their concerns in writing to the accountable officer heading the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group, concerns echoed in a letter to the same addressee from Sir Keir Starmer, acting in his role as MP for Holborn & St Pancras.

Another, the most important, is that the takeover is a conspicuous example of a trend away from the normal practice of surgeries being small businesses owned by a single GP or a GP partnership, towards them being owned by large business groups.

In reaction to press stories about the Centene takeover some commentators have pointed out that GP practices are already "privatised" - at the time the NHS was created in 1948 GPs did not become NHS employees but continued to operate privately, as is still the case. However, there is a very big difference between, on the one hand, a small business run by doctors with the aim of providing a service and earning themselves a living at the same time and, on the other hand, a large chain of surgeries run by a corporation whose prime responsibilities are directed towards shareholders. It is well known that in the United States, where Centene is a big player, profit takes precedence over patients.

For a clear exposition of the many concerning aspects of this takeover, watch the video above and read the article referenced below - Aren't All GPs Private Anyway? The video was made by Tower Hamlets Keep Our NHS Public and starts with information about clinics in east London, but the bulk of the video concerns the threat to services across the whole of London and England.

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Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #5956 07 Apr 2021 00:03


Around 140 London councillors have signed an open letter to the various Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which operate in the capital - ours is the North Central London CCG. People other than councillors etc can also sign - go to weownit.org.uk/open-letter-local-leaders-mps-councillors-assembly-members-ccgs-centenes-takeover-nhs-gp-practices

Dear Clinical Commissioning Groups,

We have recently been made aware of the takeover of 49 NHS GP practices by US healthcare company, Centene. These GP practices care for communities across London.

We are writing to you to express our disappointment that there was no consultation with the local communities that will be directly impacted by this change prior to approval being given to the takeover. We also want to put on record our strong opposition to the decision to allow the takeover and ask you to do everything in your power to end it.

The signatories of this letter disapprove of Centene's involvement in London GP practices for many different reasons, but whatever one's position on the involvement of the private sector in the NHS, it seems clear that Centene's track record over just the last 5 years makes them unsuitable to run GP practices.

In March just his year, they were sued by the state of Ohio in the US for allegedly creating "an elaborate scheme to maximize company profits at the expense of the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the state of Ohio”. And the state of Mississippi has just announced that they are investigating Centene for similar schemes.

Last year, they were found guilty of systematically underpaying emergency room doctors who worked for them in the US state of Arkansas.

And in 2018, they were the target of a class-action lawsuit by people who bought health insurance from them because Centene allegedly failed to provide them with “adequate access to doctors in 15 states” despite taking premiums from those people every month. The year prior (2017), Centene had been fined $1.5 million by the state of Washington for, by Centene's own admission, failing to provide a sufficient network of doctors for people who bought health insurance from them.

Their questionable activities have not been limited to the United States. In 2018, Centene was called "profit-greedy" by the Daily Mail after the company was also implicated in the closing down of a GP surgery in Harlow, Essex, here in England.

We have no reason whatsoever to expect that they will behave any differently in London. Such behaviour would undoubtedly have a profound impact on the quality of care Londoners, especially the elderly and vulnerable, receive as well as on the pay and conditions of the staff at our GP practices (including doctors).

We hope that you will heed our call to do everything in your power to end Centene’s involvement in London GP practices on which our local communities depend.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #5957 07 Apr 2021 00:24


Protest over GP takeover by private corporation

The Laurels is a GP practice on St. Ann’s Road in North London. It is one of 37 practices across 49 sites that has recently been acquired by the huge American health insurance company Centene Corporation, via its subsidiary Operose.

According to anti-privatisation campaigners who held a protest there on Friday afternoon, the takeover has been shrouded in secrecy, without public debate, and even local councillors have been unaware of the ownership changes until the last moment.

Some of the GP practices were already in the hands of a private company, AT Medics, but in an online meeting in December the North Central London Commissioning Group approved the change of control over to Operose in just a few minutes without questions and without any mention of Centene.

There was also an understanding there would be no change to the board of directors, but just two months later, all six AT Medics directors resigned, and among the three new directors was Samantha Jones, who previously worked as Director of New Care Models at NHS England, and is now CEO and President of Centene UK.

Another director at Centene UK is now working as a Deputy Director of the Test and Trace programme at the Department of Health and Social Security, prompting local councillor Nurullah Turan to write to Matt Hancock about the potential conflict of interest.

The concern for many campaigners, including Dr Bob Gill, the south London GP who made The Great NHS Heist film, is that the much-trumpeted Integrated Care System, which supposedly pulls the NHS away from competition, is actually a ploy to cut services, increase profits for companies like Centene, and put patients in danger as a result.

In America, Centene is a Fortune 500 company that made 111 billion dollar revenue last year. The acquisition of surgeries in London is expected to make it the largest private supplier of GP services in the UK, covering around half a million patients. Centene recently announced the slashing of 3,000 jobs in the US.