Merger of Streatham NHS GP practices raises concerns amid takeover by US firm
– Hannah Davenport
Two Streatham NHS GP surgeries are now under the control of US insurance giant Centene.
Two NHS GP surgeries in Streatham were taken over by a major US insurance company after approval was granted last December.
Both surgeries were run by AT Medics, a small private firm based in Streatham, who received permission by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to handover power to Operose Health, part of the US insurance corporation Centene.
The handover affected 49 AT Medics GP surgeries across 19 London boroughs, including Edith Cavell Practice and Streatham High Practice in Lambeth.
Another Lambeth AT Medics surgery, Streatham Place Practice, was not included on the list as a freedom of information request revealed its contract was not renewed last August, and it has instead become a branch of Edith Cavell surgery.
Gay Lee, Lambeth representative for campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said we could be seeing the concerning effects of privatisation on local practices.
Ms Lee said: “When they say there are no changes so we don’t need to worry about this, that’s not true, because many of those patients (at Streatham Place) have had to leave that surgery and go elsewhere – patients have been affected.
“One of the reasons the Streatham Place practice closed was probably because it wasn’t making enough money for them, because profit is the main motive – we have to bear that in mind.”
She said the wheels would have already been in motion for Centene, Operose Health to take over.
According to the surgery, patients were notified by letter and given the option to re-register with nearby Edith Cavell surgery by the end of November 2020 or to find another GP. Streatham Place is currently open as a covid vaccination centre.
An Operose Health spokesperson said: “We would like to reassure the patients of Streatham High Practice, Streatham Place Surgery and Edith Cavell Surgery, that the day to day operations of any AT Medics GP surgery, the care that we deliver to our patients and the services accessed through our surgeries will not change.
“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.”
Campaign groups like We Own It and Keep Our NHS Public are leading a national campaign against the sell-off of NHS GP practices and calling for the end of privatisation.
We Own It argues privatisation leads to a decreased quality of public services, as private companies can make profit by cutting corners and underinvesting.
Ms Lee said: “People perceive the NHS as having a wonderful service and the fact they’re still getting it free at the point of need, to some degree makes it irrelevant who’s providing it – until the service starts deteriorating.”
Almost 50,000 people signed a petition by campaign group We Own It, to stop Centene (Operose Health UK) taking over the 49 GP surgeries and practices.
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