“The NHS should be returned to a publicly funded, publicly provided, comprehensive health care service, available to all & be free at the point of delivery.”Apsana Begum MP
During the pandemic, a sell-off by stealth look place across GP surgeries in London. Starting two years ago, the American health insurance company Centene, slowly began taking over day-to-day operations for 49 GP surgeries across London, affecting a total of 370,000 patients.
Most recently, they were awarded contracts for a further five GP surgeries for the next 15 years. This deal is worth a total of just over £121 million. The takeover was done covertly behind closed doors and was approved without any public consultation. Centene has said that it considers itself to be “the leading provider of NHS primary care services in the UK”.
While some have claimed that profit-seeking firms such as Centene are no different from typical GP practices, which are classed as independent contractors, the two models are incomparable. GP practices do not operate in the same way as a private company. They exist to support the NHS and exclusively accept NHS contracts. They do not seek a profit and instead reinvest all their income. They are not driven by profits and are non-competitive.
The introduction of a profit-seeking firm into the health industry will only lead to one outcome: cutting costs and deteriorating the quality of care all of us receive. Compare Serco’s handling of the test and trace system with the NHS’s vaccine rollout and you get a sense of which healthcare model produces better health outcomes.
During the 2019 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn warned that plans were being drawn up to open the NHS up to US private healthcare firms post-Brexit. At the time, the Government and mainstream media denied that there was any truth to these warnings. However, there is evidence that Centene started mobilising for expansion into the NHS from as early as January 2020, just one month after that General Election.
While this is happening, the Government has published a White Paper which it claims addresses the issue of privatisation in the NHS. However, many doctors and campaigners have correctly raised concerns that the White Paper does not prevent privatisation, it enables it and expands it. It provides the means to prevent scrutiny in the awarding of contracts.
The NHS should be returned to a publicly funded, publicly provided, comprehensive health care service, available to all and be free at the point of delivery. We should come together and campaign to stop its privatisation.
- Apsana is one of a number of Socialist Campaign Group Labour MPs who write a monthly column for Labour Outlook.
- Apsana Begum MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament. You can lobby your MP to sign this using We Own It’s tool here: https://weownit.org.uk/get-centene-out