Keep Our NHS Public and We Own It campaigners were joined last week by Jeremy Corbyn and other MPs to protest the take over of 50 GP surgeries by private company Operose, owned by US health company Centene. Operose now owns GP practices delivering NHS services for over 500,000 people in England.
A main protest was staged outside Centene’s subsidiary offices, Operose in London on Thursday 22 April 2021. This socially distanced protest was attended by Jeremy Corbyn MP and Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse.
A total of 11 protests were held, many of them outside of the surgeries affected by the take-over, to make patients aware of the change.
Across the country, Centene now own 58 practices, covering 500,000 patients, making them almost certainly the largest providers of primary care in the English NHS. This change of control from the former owners, AT Medics, took place with little council involvement and no public consultation. Campaigners maintain that there has been pressure from NHS England to accept the deal without real scrutiny and that there are questions to be asked about whether NHS regulations were followed legally.
“The sell-off of local surgeries is part of a bigger programme of stealth privatisation which the Government has been using the pandemic to push through.“From PPE shortages to the failure of our privatised Test and Trace system, we’ve seen what happens when essential public services are sold off to companies for private gain, and often to people with close personal ties to this Government.“Our surgeries are never going to be safe in the hands of US healthcare giants like Centene, whose need to make profit for shareholders will always trump the quality of patient care.”
"Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public has been campaigning against the creeping privatisation of the NHS since the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This stealthily-organised takeover of some GP practices in SEL London and elsewhere, by giant US health corporation Centene, is a prime example - and Centene has a reputation in the US for dubious practices. There will be more to come unless we kick up enough fuss about this".
One of the GPs involved in the action and member of Keep Our NHS Public, Dr Brian Fisher was concerned the changes would lead to fewer GPs and money being siphoned from patient care. He added:
"Profits must never be allowed to come before patient care.”
More information about the take over of surgeries by Centene can be found on our campaign page, alongside materials for arranging your own demonstrations.