Many constituents have contacted me, after rightfully being concerned about private companies taking over GP practices in England.
Operose Health – a subsidiary of US insurance company Centene – has recently acquired AT Medics, which operates 37 GP practices across London. This will add to the 21 GP practices it already runs throughout England. I support calls for the Government to intervene to block this takeover, which is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services.
This takeover happened without any patient consultation or public scrutiny and there are understandable concerns that this represents stealth privatisation, with potentially huge implications for patient care.
I have concerns that private sector involvement in NHS services has created a fragmented and marketised system, which prevents proper integration.
The Government has published a White Paper on the future of health and care. It includes plans to repeal many aspects of its 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which introduced competitive tendering and was criticised for increasing private involvement in the NHS. I have consistently been opposed to the Act, on the grounds it has fragmented services and undermined the principles of the NHS as a comprehensive and universal healthcare system.
I will scrutinise forthcoming legislation in this area closely and press Ministers to ensure any reorganisation delivers the standards of care patients deserve and supports NHS and care staff. In the meantime, I believe the Conservative Government should step in to halt the transfer of GP practices to Centene, ensure it is fully scrutinised, and prevent takeovers like this from happening in the future.
This past year has posed many challenges to our National Health Service but has also shown us how valued it is by everyone. I’m very concerned that the growing trend we have seen of private sector involvement in the NHS could lead to a two-tier workforce, thereby opening a backdoor route to the privatisation of NHS services. I believe Government should pledge to reverse the Health and Social Care Act, reinstate the duty of the Health and Social Care Secretary to provide universal care and end privatisation and fragmentation. We must move towards genuine integration, planning, and partnership – publicly administered and provided.