‘PATIENTS before profits, defend the NHS!’ shouted around 200 demonstrators outside St Paul’s Way General Practice yesterday, opposing the take-over of the doctors surgery in Bow, east London, by private company Atos Healthcare.
Dr Anna Livingstone told the demonstrators that GP surgeries run by private, profit-making companies would only work if they provided care on the ‘cheap’.
Belle Harris, from the patients forum, said that the ‘scrutiny committee’ of the local authority had the power to halt the privatisation process.
‘It is going to be the thin end of the wedge if it goes through,’ she said.
Local resident Kabir Mahmood said: ‘I just want to say keep your hands off our surgeries!’
Oliur Rahman, East London PCS branch chair, said privateers are ‘completely useless’, adding: ‘They do not have experience of running a health centre and won’t be able to run it as efficiently as the NHS. It’s vital the public service remains public.’
Dr Kambiz Boomla, from Chrisp St Health Centre, chair of the BMA’s City and East London local medical committee, told the rally: ‘In Camden three practices were handed over to United Healthcare this week, the largest American multinational company.’
He warned that there was ‘a handing over of all vacant practices to the private sector, to be run for profit in competition with each other.’
He spoke out against ‘marketplace medicine where GPs are given the budgets to buy and sell your healthcare’.
Local councillor Ahmed Hussain told News Line: ‘This was a four-doctor practice serving 10,500 patients.
‘The running of the practice was sent out to open tender: one private sector company and two big local practices were shortlisted.
‘The whole tendering process is highly skewed in favour of the private sector.
‘This is the first time the private sector has entered into the health market in Tower Hamlets. It will open the door to Virgin, Boots and all these private sector firms and that is why we are protesting.’
• The GMB trade union yesterday condemned a decision by South London and Maudsley NHS Trust to drive forward the closure of the Felix Post Day Hospital for elderly dementia patients in Denmark Hill, south London.
A GMB statement said: ‘Yesterday the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust decided to take the next step to partly close the Felix Post day hospital in Denmark Hill for the over 65s with mental health problems such as dementia and psychosis.
‘The basis for the Trust’s decision was not that the service is not needed but that its closure will lead to money being saved.
‘The likelihood is that the elderly patients cared for in the Felix Post Unit will be deposited in a drop-in centre in Balham.
‘In addition the Trust has decided to halve the peripatetic rehab team in supported housing with a loss of ten qualified medical staff.
‘Consultation on the closure of the Felix Post Unit at the Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill started in August 2007 and the decision was made yesterday.
‘The Unit is run by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
‘The Felix Post day hospital helps keep 40/50 elderly people with mental illness in their own homes and out of hospital.’