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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 7 February 2008
Snouts in the NHS trough

• ARE our elected officials’ snouts so deep in the trough that they fail to see the dangers that could lead to a total sell-off of our National Health Service (Here come the ‘sicko’ surgeries, January 31)?
The profits would seem to be limitless with agency charges for a nurse at £121.59 an hour – £100 an hour for a human resources manager – £96.75 an hour for a GP.
This is part of an agency staff bill totalling £1.18 billion in 2005 to 2006.
The people of Camden await a campaign led by our Members of Parliament to thwart the sale of health services in our, or any other, borough.
Ian McDeson
UCATT, Camden, NW1


• READERS will be concerned about Camden Primary Care Trust’s decision to hand over the management of three GP surgeries to the largest profit-making healthcare company in the US (Here come the ‘sicko’ surgeries, January 31).
As local doctors have already said, this decision raises a number crucial questions:
l how can patients be sure that profit-making won’t take priority over quality of patient care?
l is there a danger this move will undermine the personal relationship between patients and their GPs which has been at the heart of the NHS ever since its foundation?
l how can a vast US corporation be expected to address the particular needs and priorities of Camden residents and, most pressingly, the need to tackle the unacceptable inequalities in health that exist in our borough?
As chair of the health scrutiny committee I will be putting these questions to the chief executive of the primary care trust at our meeting on March 4 at 7pm in the Town Hall. All our meetings are open to the public and any readers who are interested in hearing the discussion would be very welcome to join us.
I believe that decisions like this should be taken, not by primary care trusts, but by local health boards, directly elected by the local community and genuinely accountable to that community.
That system would allow devolved decision-making so that local priorities could be addressed and, most importantly, give local people a real say in shaping the future of their National Health Service.
CLLR David Abrahams
Chair of Health Scrutiny Committee

Costly care

• THE decision of Camden’s PCT to award United Health a contract to run three of our GP surgeries is a real concern.
It means that we will now have surgeries run primarily to make profits by companies set up for this purpose.
The risks are that we will be encouraged to have treatment that is not entirely necessary where this may increase revenue, or that we will not get treatment at all where expensive.
It is likely that costs will eventually go up in order to fund expensive managers in these companies and to pay dividends due to shareholders.
The US healthcare system shows just how expensive this commercial model of health care can be.
There the costs of provision are around 16 per cent of GDP compared with 8 per cent in the UK.
Yet in the US a large proportion of the population have no health care provision at all.
The response of Councillor Abrahams, chair of Camden Council’s health scrutiny committee, to the effect that the Trust has probably gone down the route because it is the best option and if that is the case so be it, shows too great a willingness to swap our public health provision for commercial provisioning where the short-term gains look good.
It is important that the PCT values and supports the public service and community ethos of our local GPs rather than throwing this away for what at first may appear to be cheaper services.
Camden Green Party will seek to put pressure on the PCT through the council, which scrutinises health care provision in the borough, and directly to reconsider their decision.
Cllr Maya de Souza
Green Party, Highgate Ward

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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