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Patients take UnitedHealth APMS protest to Whitehall

By Steve Nowottny

Patients protesting against the takeover of three GP practices by private US health giant UnitedHealth will take their campaign to Whitehall next week.

Campaigners from the practices in Camden, north London, will deliver a petition with more than 300 signatures to the Department of Health on Monday.

The march follows a town hall meeting earlier this week where up to 200 GPs and patients turned up to voice their opposition. Local MP and former Health Secretary Frank Dobson has also spoken out against the takeover, scheduled to go ahead on April 1.

Last month Pulse revealed that local GPs bidding against UnitedHealth to run the three practices lost out after being uncut by as much as 25% - despite being rated as offering substantially better services.

Barbara Saunders, a patient spearheading the campaign, said: ‘We're calling on the Secretary of State to delay or stop the takeover while it's investigated, and we hope the decision's going to be overturned.'

‘The consultation was very poorly done and there was no background check on this company.'

However, Ms Saunders said she had been forced to drop a proposed legal challenge to Camden PCT's decision after being advised it would have little chance of success.

A spokeswoman for Camden PCT insisted the practice contracts had been awarded to UnitedHealth only after an 'extensive public consultation' and a 'rigorous procurement process'.

'This is in no way a privatisation of the NHS,' she said. 'Services at all three practices will remain of course NHS services available free at the point of delivery, funded by the PCT and provided by an independent contractor. The contract that we have set requires a wider range of services to be provided to a higher specification including a requirement for longer opening hours.'

UnitedHealth declined to comment.

Next week's protest follows a string of demonstrations – in Oxford, Nottingham and Liverpool - against Richard Branson's Virgin Healthcare group, which has held roadshows for GPs across the country to explain its plans to run practices.

anti-privatisation protests are stepping up anti-privatisation protests are stepping up

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