US takeover of GP surgeries subject to Judicial Review

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Demonstration outside the Department of Health demanding no takeover of GP surgeries by Centene

THE takeover of GP practices in London by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation will be subject of a judicial review in early 2022 after more than £70,000 has been raised by the public to fund the case, Unite the union said yesterday.

Campaigners say that the review is vital because of the lack of consultation with patients, following the takeover earlier this year by Centene’s UK subsidiary Operose Health of the privately-owned AT Medics set- up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and which runs 37 GP practices across London.

Campaign organisations, including Unite, Keep Our NHS Public, 999 Call for the NHS and We Own It, have spearheaded the fund raising campaign which saw the public donate £43,424 so that the judicial review got the go-ahead last month.

Now a further £30,000 is required to cover ‘capped costs’, if the case were lost – so far, more than £28,000 has been raised in the last week in the latest round of fundraising.

It is expected that the High Court will hear the case in January or February 2022 when it will focus on whether the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) acted unlawfully.

The issues under the microscope include whether due diligence into the workings of Operose Health took place, and the lack of consultation with patients and other stakeholders.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘This is a landmark case in the fight against the accelerating pace of privatisation of the NHS in England. Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, fully supports the judicial review. GP services can’t be allowed to be hived off to profit-hungry American private healthcare companies.

‘The magnificent effort by the public to raise more than £70,000 for this legal case is a testament to how much people value and love the NHS – they don’t want to see its services and ethos eroded by unaccountable, untouchable corporate take-overs.’

Doctors in Unite chair Jackie Applebee said: ‘Ministers and senior NHS executives have repeatedly mouthed the mantra that the NHS is not being privatised, but that is patently not true as the awarding of lucrative contracts to non-UK private healthcare firms continues apace.

‘The public is rightly concerned, given how PPE contracts were awarded to ‘friends’ of the government throughout the pandemic.

‘How commissioning decisions are made will be under scrutiny at the judicial review and we hope to get a favourable judgement that stops GP surgery privatisation in its tracks.

‘A key question will be why a huge swathe of English general practice, including the data of nearly half a million patients, was handed over to US health insurance giant Centene – with a breath-taking lack of transparency and openness.’