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Private US company takeover of London GP practices set for judicial review

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The takeover of London GP practices by private US healthcare company Centene Corporation will undergo judicial review next year, campaigners have said.

The group, including Unite the Union, Keep Our NHS Public, 999 Call for the NHS and We Own It, said the review is necessary due to the lack of consultation with patients over the takeover.

Through its UK company Operose Health, Centene took over privately-owned AT Medics, set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and overseeing 37 London GP practices, early this year.

Protests have been ongoing since the initial takeover and it was a patient who applied for the judicial review back in May.

The judicial review got the green light in October and the public donated £43,424 as part of the first fundraising campaign.

An additional £30,000 is now needed to cover costs if the case is lost, and more than £28,000 has been raised so far in one week.

Unite expects that the High Court will hear the case within the first two months of 2022, looking at whether North Central London CCG broke the law by not doing its due diligence into Operose Health, as well as not consulting with patients and stakeholders.

Doctors in Unite chair and Tower Hamlets GP Dr 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.’

She added: ‘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.’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the review is ‘a landmark case in the fight against the accelerating pace of privatisation of the NHS in England’.

‘GP services can’t be allowed to be hived off to profit-hungry American private healthcare companies,’ she added.

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Patrufini Duffy 19 November, 2021 7:39 pm

Love a second job, procurement, lack of knowledge and competence and data sell off. Duty of candour. Jokes. Chuck in the corruption, dishonesty, harassment and bullying and lies. It’s a good clash to your daily work. Imagine if you did one of them, regularly.

Samir Shah 20 November, 2021 2:56 am

It’s this government that the GPC want to reset their relationship with.

Darren Tymens 20 November, 2021 1:15 pm

Sale of goodwill is illegal. Operose therefore cannot have paid such a huge sum (rumoured to be 120m GBP) for this.
But take that away and you are left with contracts, staff, buildings, operating procedures etc – and these are things that every practice has.
It follows that if the AT Medics sale is found to be legal, every practice suddenly has a quite large financial value. This will have potentially very significant and varied impacts – on retirements, on appointment of new partners, of further sales of practices to private companies, perhaps even on government plans to replace practices with PCNs.
If the AT Medics sale is illegal, the current situation is maintained and GPs can build up a practice as a successful over a number of years and see no added value from this.

Dylan Summers 23 November, 2021 12:33 pm

“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.”

This is the sale of a business currently owned privately by a UK company to a US company. There may be a word for that but it isn’t “privatisation”.

Mark Howson 25 November, 2021 10:45 am

Hi Dylan, GP practices run by GPs under a GMS contract are not conventional private businesses as they cannot be bought and sold. You also cannot provide anything but GMS services to your population and you cannot charge your population. So I guess the judicial review here is how a practice has been sold as Darren Tymens points out above. If it is successful it may alter the landscape. However GPs are still stuck with GMS contracts while I suspect the private businesses here have different contracts which make them truly a private business that can be bought and sold.

Krishna Malladi 25 November, 2021 10:22 pm

Sale of goodwill for list based general practice is illegal but not for urgent care centres and such non-list based primary care organisations. This includes APMS practices. I doubt goodwill is being charged on the practices in this sale. However, if goodwill relates to the holding company, AT Medics, rather than the practices, then that will be allowed. The outcome and details will be interesting.