Protest at east London GP surgeries being handed to private operator
- Credit: Carol Saunders/Save NHS
Patients and NHS campaigners against privatisation have been protesting at the takeover of four surgeries in the East End, along with 45 others elsewhere, by an American health insurance giant.
Whitechapel Health Centre branches in Hessel Street and in Portsoken, together with East One Health surgeries in Deancross Street and Cable Street, are among 13 east London surgeries taken over by Centene, through its UK subsidiary Operose Health, in February.
A total of 49 practices have been handed over to the company, with NHS contracts affecting 390,000 patients in London and the South East, added to the 21 it already owns around the country, making it the biggest surgery operator in the health service.
The protestors were at Shadwell’s Watney Market handing out leaflets as part of a national day of action on April 22.
They marched to the East One Health practice in Deancross Street and were met by Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan, who joined the protest.
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Similar demos were taking place across London and the South East, while a rally outside the Mayfair headquarters of the company involved was addressed by Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum.
The "surgery sell-offs" were made without consulting patients, local authorities or GP commissioning committees, campaigners say.
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“This is a disaster for patients,” Carol Saunders from the Keep NHS Public campaign told the East London Advertiser.
“Private companies have a poor record of running practices – as we saw in 2011, when Atos finally gave up St Paul’s surgery in Bow Common before the end of its contract.
“They can’t raise prices so they make shareholder profit by cutting back on staff and services. Privatisation has already gone too far and it’s time to draw a line — we want our NHS back.”
Four surgeries in Whitechapel and Shadwell are set to merge and move out to a new development in Goodman Fields off Commercial Road.
That means longer journeys for many elderly patients who have contacted Cllr Khan, supporting the protest.
Cllr Khan said: "I've been out with campaigners against the privatisation, including my GP at East One Health in Shadwell. We must stop the corporate takeover of our NHS.“
The Advertiser has contacted the health insurance company involved in the takeover, Operose Health, which says it “shares NHS values and cares for NHS patients”. The company adds that its health care "is free at the point of delivery, regulated and inspected by the Care Quality Commission”.