Fears over privatisation plan for GP centre
Tan Parsons CAMPAIGNERS are threatening legal action over NHS Camden's decision to hand control of a health centre to a private company. Last Friday (July 31) the group confirmed that the contract to run a new GP-led health centre in Hampstead Road would
CAMPAIGNERS are threatening legal action over NHS Camden's decision to hand control of a health centre to a private company.
Last Friday (July 31) the group confirmed that the contract to run a new GP-led health centre in Hampstead Road would be awarded to Care UK, a company that in April this year was criticised in a BBC Panorama investigation into the quality of elderly homecare.
Campaigners were also furious that NHS Camden's decision was announced more than two months ahead of the conclusion of their Primary and Urgent Care Strategy consultation on October 9.
Leigh Day and Co solicitors have now served NHS Camden with a letter before action on behalf of Camden pensioner, Willibald Davies, who has diabetes. The firm has insisted that NHS Camden should immediately halt the procurement process and the signing of any contract until full local consultation has taken place.
Chairwoman of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, Candy Udwin, said: "We are appalled by the idea that more private companies could get a toehold in Camden family doctors services.
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"The fact there's been no consultation makes it even more appalling.
"People want to see a family doctor who knows them and their problems and who sees them every time they go to the doctors."
The proposed development is one of the so called 'GP-led health centres' that was being promoted by Lord Darzi before he resigned last month as health minister.
NHS Camden's decision to select Care UK as the preferred bidder follows the controversial appointment of private American firm United Health to run three local GP practices in the south of Camden.
However, patients spokesman Neil Woodnick, who is chairman of the Camden Local Involvement Network, said that a consultation would only delay the inevitable.
He said: "Even if there is a judicial review and NHS Camden was forced to hold a consultation, you have to remember a consultation isn't a democratic process.
"They could still award the contract to whoever they choose.
"At the moment figures show there is overall patient satisfaction at the surgeries run by United Health, so I'm not that worried about the prospect of another private care provider.
"But obviously we will monitor the situation closely and see how it works out. We are more concerned about how confusing it is for people in Camden now.
"How do they know whether to go to accident and emergency, an urgent care unit or the GP-led health centre?"
A spokeswoman for NHS Camden said that no case against the organisation had been lodged with the courts at the time the Ham&High went to press.
She said: "Since 2007 we have made clear our desire to increase access to GP services for the people of South Camden, one of the most deprived areas of the borough.
"By the end of 2009 a brand new health centre with a brand new GP practice will open, offering world class health care at times convenient for local residents.