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NHS campaigners pressure Camden councillors to properly scrutinise new GP contract

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 December 2014

Health campaigners on the steps of Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Health campaigners on the steps of Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Councillors have vowed to investigate a new contract delivering GP care across north London as they were warned it could replace the family doctor of more than a million residents with “anonymous private companies”.

Health campaigners told Camden Council’s health scrutiny committee it risked ignoring its own previous recommendations should it fail to properly scrutinise changes to GP Out of Hours (OOH).

Commissioners have outlined plans that will see OOH care for north London, including Camden, merged into one service.

Currently, Camden and Islington residents receive a joint OOH service by private healthcare provider Harmoni, now owned by Care UK.

The proposed changes come not long after a previous health scrutiny committee criticised Harmoni for the care it had provided and called on Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure that in any future contract “much greater weight be given to quality over price criteria in health service contract tendering”.

But campaigners say the new contract proposed by the CCG would mean many “high quality” local GPs would be priced out.

The council’s health scrutiny committee, now with a new chairwoman, is being urged “not to forget” prior committees’ work.

Backed by four other health campaign groups, Candy Udwin, of Camden Keep our NHS Public, told councillors: “A large body of evidence shows that big private companies do not provide the best care – local doctors do.

“The huge value of the contract estimated at up to £100m will make it extremely difficult for local GP consortia to put together a successful bid.”

Chairwoman Cllr Alison Kelly vowed to scrutinise the proposals, saying: “We continue to endorse previous recommendations made.”

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