Patients demand Brent health chiefs reject GP practices takeover
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Outraged patients are demanding that Brent health chiefs reject the takeover of two GP surgeries in Brent by an American provider.
Burnley Medical Practice in Robson Avenue, Willesden, and The Wembley Practice in Chaplin Road, currently run by AT Medics, is earmarked for takeover by Operose Health Ltd.
Brent CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee (CCG) is meeting tomorrow (March 17) to discuss a regional NHS recommendation to approve the takeover, which the CCG argues will not change patient services.
However, opponents argue there has been no scrutiny of Operose's accounts, have called for representatives to be at the meeting and demanded the NHS starts a public procurement process to find a new provider.
According to Brent Patient Voice (BPV), Operose is a loss-making subsidiary of US-based health insurer Centene Corporation, which is registered in Delaware, and has paid no UK tax.
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Members of the patient group say Centene could "pull the plug on Operose at any time, forcing the shut-down of a large number of GP practices".
Camden Road Surgery closed four years after being taken by an Operose associate company in 2012, giving patients only four weeks to register elsewhere.
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Robin Sharp, chair of BPV, said: "The prime minister said that the NHS is not for sale but when an American healthcare corporation buys 49 GP practices with no serious scrutiny to date you must wonder how true that is. The idea that nothing will change is fanciful."
Nan Tewari, a patient of The Wembley Practice, said: “On the one hand you have NHS region insisting Brent CCG has no choice but to agree the Operose takeover and on the other, it is advising that ultimate responsibility lies with Brent CCG as the legal decision-maker of the Brent GP surgeries’ future.
"The breathtaking cynicism in this dishonourable ploy lies in NWL region knowing perfectly well that with Brent CCG soon to be abolished under national plans, patients will have no come back if Centene decides to pull the financial plug on Operose and the surgeries close down.
"Then, NHS region will shamelessly lament the late Brent CCG’s poor judgement and lack of prudence. I’ve seen a similar scenario played out here in previous years.”
Brent CCG did not respond to questions on why no Operose representatives will be at the meeting.
A spokesperson said: "AT Medics had to ask permission of the NHS for the change in control. This is allowed under the terms of the GP contract. In this case, the transfer was approved as there was no legal or contractual basis for the CCG to reject the transfer of control and it will not alter the service that is required under the contract."
They added: "As part of a due diligence process undertaken prior to considering the change in control, we sought assurance that our patients and their care would not be affected.
"AT Medics Ltd advised us that they will continue to run the GP practices as they do now and patients will continue to see the same doctors and nurses, although over time there may be some natural changes in staff as people choose to move to new jobs.
"Care remains free at the point of delivery."