Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Camden Road Surgery - not an example of private sector expertise

Want to have a peek at what the downsides of increasing private provision in the NHS could be like?  Look no further than the goings on at Camden Road Surgery, a GP practice for almost 100 years, which will shut down on April 13.

Staff have been given their notice and  4,700 patients are being uprooted and told to sign up at practices as far away as Highgate.

It follows the failure of private operators The Practice Plc to negotiate an extension to a lease with the building’s owners or to secure alternative premises nearby.

The company took over the surgery last April from American private health operators UnitedHealth UK, which had previously outbid a consortium of local ­doctors to win the contract to run three practices in Camden in 2008.

The story of how US giant United Health took over three Camden GP practices as been subject of a council-led inquiry and chronicled in the pages of the Camden New Journal in recent weeks. The history of the take-over from 2008 is set out here and by local campaigners here.

The council probe, which began on May 10, is by Camden Council’s health scrutiny panel and looks into the closure of the previously popular Camden Road Practice.

It will consider whether the closure of the surgery, which had 4,700 patients, was avoidable and will scrutinise healthcare provided by the two private firms that managed the surgery from 2008 until its closure in April this year.

Three councillors on the scrutiny panel, chaired by Labour's Angela Mason, listened to evidence from former patients, a retired NHS manager, a former doctor at the surgery and the medical director of Londonwide Local Medical Committees (LMCs).

Evidence gathered raised question about the provision of healthcare from 2008 onwards and the alleged “illegal handover” of the contract for the surgery from one firm to another.  It was alleged that United Health (UH) should have been penalised for sub-contracting the surgery to The Practice PLC three years into a five-year contract. The local press has been carrying reports of how the numbers of patients with serious illnesses inexplicably fell and how the handover of running from one firm to another couldn't have been prevented.  In reality concerns had been expressed locally from 2008 onwards.





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