Campaign groups have joined forces to oppose the takeover of 20 South London GP surgeries by a US healthcare giant.
Operose Health, a subsidiary of American company Centene, acquired London’s largest healthcare provider AT Medics in October last year.
As a result they have taken over 20 surgeries in south London.
But campaigners have criticised the move, calling it a “dangerous step” towards privatisation of the NHS.
Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy has also opposed the move, saying: “From PPE shortages to the failure of our privatised Test and Trace system, we’ve seen what happens when essential public services are sold off to companies for private gain, often to people with close ties to Government.
“Our surgeries are never going to be safe in the hands of US healthcare giants like Centene, whose need to make profit for shareholders will always trump the quality of patient care.
“The sell-off of local surgeries is part of a bigger programme of stealth privatisation which the Government has been pushing through during the pandemic.”
Ms Ribeiro-Addy joined protesters from campaign groups We Own It and Keep Our NHS Public outside Streatham GPs on April 22.
Dr Brian Fisher, a member of Keep Our NHS Public, said: “This is a dangerous step towards more privatisation and Americanisation of our NHS. It is likely to lead to fewer GPs and to money being siphoned from patient care to US profits.
“It may, for the first time, open up the planning of local NHS services to the private sector. Profits must never be allowed to come before patient care.”
Campaigners fear that the takeover will have negative effects on patient care and employees’ terms and conditions.
They warn that this could lead to cost-cutting, deskilling of staff and possibly a reduced quality of service.
Across the UK, Centane now owns 58 practices, which cover 500,000 patients.
Gay Lee, a member of Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public said: “Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public has been campaigning against the creeping privatisation of the NHS since the Health and Social Care Act of 2012.
“This stealthily organised takeover of some GP practices in South East London and elsewhere, by giant US health corporation Centene, is a prime example. There will be more to come unless we kick up enough fuss about this.”
Campaigns Officer Johnbosco Nwogbo of campaign group We Own It said: “Centene’s takeover of our GP practices is absolutely shocking.
“When people turn up for an appointment with their GP, they expect to meet a local NHS doctor they can trust, not an employee of a massive American health insurance company. They expect their GP to be prioritising their health needs, not the bottom line of a private company.
“The reality is that whenever private companies are involved with our NHS, profit is prioritised over public health. You only have to look at Serco’s disastrous handling of the test and trace system to know that. So it’s imperative that this takeover – and all like it – is stopped in its tracks.
“The public don’t want American health giants running their GP practices, and they don’t want our NHS privatised bit by bit.”
A South East London CCG spokesman said: “The contract holder remains the same – AT Medics Ltd – who have confirmed they will continue to run their GP practices as they do now, and patients will see the same doctors and nurses. Care will remain free at the point of delivery.”
A spokesman from Operose Health said: “Operose Health shares NHS values, provides NHS services and cares for NHS patients. Like other NHS providers, our care is free at the point of delivery, regulated and inspected by the Care Quality Commission.”
A full list of surgeries now owned by Operose Health can be found below:
- Cassidy Medical Centre – 651a Fulham Road, SW6 5PX (Chelsea and Fulham)
- Earls Court Health and Wellbeing Centre – 2b Hogarth Road, London, SW5 0PT (Kensington)
- Edith Cavell Surgery – 41 A-C Streatham Hill, London, SW2 4TP (Streatham)
- Falmouth Road Group Practice – 78 Falmouth Road, Borough, SE1 4JW (Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
- Fieldway Medical Centre – 15a Danebury, CR0 9EU (Croydon Central)
- GP Hub Central Croydon – East Croydon Medical Centre, 59 Addiscombe Road, CR0 6SD (Croydon Central)
- GP Hub Parkway – Parkway Health Centre, Parkway, New Addington, CR0 0JA (Croydon Central)
- GP Hub Purley – Purley War Memorial Hospital, 856 Brighton Road, CR8 2YL (Croydon South)
- Headley Drive Surgery – 117a Headley Drive, CR0 0QL
- Kings Road Medical Centre – 529 Kings Road, SW10 0UD (Chelsea and Fulham)
- Parkway Health Centre – Parkway, CR0 0JA (Croydon Central)
- Queens Road Surgery – 136 Meeting House Lane, SE15 2UA (Camberwell and Peckham)
- Silverlock Medical Centre – 2 Verney Way, London, SE16 3HA (Camberwell and Peckham)
- Streatham High Practice – 1st Floor, 2-8 Gracefield Gardens, SW16 2ST (Streatham)
- Streatham Place Surgery – 26-28 Streatham Place, London, SW2 4QY (Streatham)
- Thamesmead Health Centre – 4-5 Thames Reach, Thamesmead, London (Erith and Thamesmead)
- The Lister Practice – 101 Peckham Road, SE15 5LJ (Camberwell and Peckham)
- The Practice Furzedown – 88e Eardley Rd, London SW16 6BL (Tooting)
- Thornton Road Surgery – 299 Thornton Road, CR0 3EW (Croydon North)
- Valley Park Surgery – Healthy Living Centre, Franklin Way, CR0 4YD (Croydon North)
Pictured top: Bell Ribeiro-Addy joins protestors outside Edith Cavill Surgery
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