Judicial review could 'stop GP surgery privatisation'

GP services in the borough are 'below average'

There are concerns that the measures could begin privatisation within the NHS - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The takeover of London GP practices by private US health insurance group Centene will undergo a judicial review next week.

Concerns sparked among doctors, campaigners and councillors when it was revealed in February 2021 that Operose Health, Centene’s UK subsidiary, took over privately-owned AT Medics, set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and which run 37 GP practices across London.

The High Court will hear the case on February 1 and 2 when it will consider whether the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) acted unlawfully when it granted approval. Money was raised by the public to fund the case.

Jackie Applebee, Doctors in Unite’s chair, said: “A favourable judgement at this judicial review could stop GP surgery privatisation in its tracks.

“A key question will be why a large 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.”

Camden Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould and at the time Islington counterpart Cllr Richard Watts were among signers of a March 2021 letter to ex-secretary of state for health Matt Hancock which noted that the move happened at “alarming speed, with little public scrutiny or patient consultation, and little or no involvement of council partners or local patient groups”.

Mitchison Road Surgery and Hanley Primary Care Centre (Islington), Trowbridge Surgery (Hackney) and Burnley Medical Practice and The Wembley Practice (Brent) are among surgeries affected.

Others include E16 Health in Albert Road and Pontoon Dock, Lucas Avenue Practice, Carpenters Practice, St Luke's Practice, and Church Road Practice in Newham.

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Tower Hamlets’ Goodman's Fields Medical Practice, Redbridge’s The Loxford Practice and Barking’s Victoria Medical Centre were also part of the deal.

The review will include whether due diligence into the workings of Operose Health took place, and the lack of consultation with patients and other stakeholders. At the time, the NCL CCG said that there was “no legal or contractual basis” to reject the request for transfer of ownership.

Commenting on the review, an Operose Health spokesperson said: “It is not appropriate for us to comment as the Judicial Review is between an individual and the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group over issues of process.”