Takeover of surgeries by US insurance giant raises alarm among NHS campaigners

PONTOON DOCK INTERIOR

Operose Health is the new owner of six surgeries in Newham including E16 Health in Pontoon Dock which opened on February 22. - Credit: NEL CSU

Campaigners have raised questions about the sale of six GP surgeries to a US health insurance giant.

When Operose Health Ltd took over UK firm AT Medics it gained ownership of its London surgeries which include half a dozen in Newham.

Its parent company is Centene Corporation which has global headquarters in Missouri.

The surgeries in Newham are: E16 Health in Albert Road, North Woolwich; E16 Health in Pontoon Dock, Royal Wharf; Lucas Avenue Practice in Upton Park; Carpenters Practice in Stratford; St Luke's Practice in Canning Town and Church Road Practice in Manor Park.

The sale has raised concern about privatisation of the NHS among campaigners from Newham Save Our NHS.


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Its chairperson, Alan Cooper, said: "GPs are an important part of the community with a long-term commitment to patients, their families and the area.

"We would like to know why a US multi-national was considered suitable to take over these practices. Did Newham Clinical Commissioning Group agree this and if so who was notified and consulted?

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"We are worried this is an example of how the government is using Covid-19 regulations to push through deals with the private sector without proper scrutiny."

Liz Wise, director of primary care and public health commissioning at the NHS in London, said: “The ownership of the holding company of AT Medics Ltd has been transferred after consent was given by the relevant commissioners.

"Patient care remains unaffected by this change.” 

Mr Cooper said campaigners fear the sale is "a sign of things to come", claiming health secretary Matt Hancock’s NHS reforms fail to stop privatisation. 

"They just get rid of competitive tendering so contracts can be given to the private sector with no transparency or accountability," Mr Cooper said.

The government maintains the NHS "is not and never will be" for sale to the private sector whether overseas or in the UK.

A council spokesperson said Newham is concerned about the takeover, but the commissioning of services is outside its control.

Pontoon Dock is home to the former Britannia Village practice. It was set up to care for existing patients and cater for the 17,000 plus people due to move to the area. The space is rented by its occupants.

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