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When you step into a GP surgery, you expect to meet a local NHS doctor you can trust, not an employee of a massive US company.

“With more & more people taking action too, we can force Centene out of our GP practices one by one, stop them getting a bigger foothold in our NHS & put an end to the corporate takeover of our precious health service.”

Johnbosco Nwogbo

By Johnbosco Nwogbo, We Own It

When you step into the door of a GP surgery, you expect to meet a local NHS doctor you can trust. You expect your health and needs to be at the forefront of your visit. 

You don’t expect to be treated by an employee of a massive American healthcare company. And you don’t expect private profit to be influencing the care they provide.

Sadly, the latter is becoming increasingly common. Centene, a US health insurance giant recently took over 49 GP practices in London through its UK subsidiary Operose. As a result, the company now runs over 70 practices across the country, making it the single largest private provider of primary care in the country. 

A classic example of increasing private involvement in the NHS, Centene’s takeovers are a major cause for concern for patients. One only has to look at the company’s track record and its stated intentions which speak for themselves. 

The company’s 2019 company report sets out the threat, making clear that its strategy is to close GP practices that it cannot profit from. This builds on its already implemented approach of shutting down ‘unprofitable’ practices – as was the case in 2018 when an Centene run GP practice in Harlow was closed down

In the USA, this endless profit seeking appears to have gone several steps further. In Ohio, Centene stands accused of overcharging for Medicaid to the tune of millions by inflating costs. An investigation is now also ongoing in Mississippi for similar allegations. In Arkansas, Centene was found guilty of systematically underpaying doctors who worked for them. And in Washington Centene was fined for not providing enough doctors to serve people it sold health insurance to in 2017. 

Are these the kind of practices we want at the heart of our NHS? Apparently so, according to the North West London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Last week, the CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee agreed to renew Centene’s contract to run a GP surgery in White City, despite outrage from the public and from patients – hundreds of whom wrote to the Committee asking them to end the company’s involvement. 

Thankfully, as a result of this public pressure – which included protests outside surgeries and the CCG offices – the contract was only renewed for two years, as opposed to the five that was initially touted. Despite patients now having to endure a further two years with profit at the heart of their surgery, the window has been opened for public pressure to force other CCGs to take a different tack. 

On June 17, the North Central London CCG could be making a similar decision on whether to keep Centene in charge of two GP practices in Islington. In the coming weeks, We Own It will be coordinating pressure from patients and the public to demand that Centene is kicked out of these surgeries for good. 

Over 55,000 people have already signed the petition against Centene’s takeover of GP practices like these ones. With more and more people taking action too, we can force Centene out of our GP practices one by one, stop them getting a bigger foothold in our NHS and put an end to the corporate takeover of our precious health service. 

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