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Camden New Journal - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 7 February 2008
‘Sicko surgeries’ firm ‘didn’t get highest score’

Decision panel’s shock over backlash

THE American firm which has seized control of three doctor practices in Camden’s “sicko surgery” row did not score the highest rating in all areas when its contract bid was assessed, the New Journal has been told.
United Health’s strong­est score during a review by the Camden Primary Care Trust was related to issues surrounding value for money rather than developing patient service, insiders have suggested.
There are now fears that financial savings were prioritised ahead of potential service provision during the process.
United Health, the largest profit-making health care company in north America, was last week confirmed as the winning bidder to run the Brunswick Medical Centre in Bloomsbury, the King’s Cross Road Practice and the Camden Road Surgery in Camden Town, which combined see 4,500 patients.
The trust yesterday maintained United Health had posted the best overall score with assessors when the bids were rated against a series of performance indicators but admitted that it was not the best performer in every category. One of the bids that is understood to have fared well was the Brunswick Medical Consortium which has run the Brunswick surgery for the past year and is thought to have run United Health close or bettered it on many factors – but not cost.
“I can confirm that the winning bid did not score the highest in all of the categories but it was the best bid overall,” said a Camden PCT spokeswoman.
Some of those on the deciding panel are said to be horrified by negative press over their decision.
The new practices have already earned the nickname “sicko surgeries” among critics, partly as a swipe towards the incoming American influence with a nod to film-maker Michael Moore’s recent critique of health care in the United States.
Opponents to the move are concerned that popular local GPs have been swept aside in favour of a company with enough resources to undercut all of its competitors.
Jacky Davis, co-chairwoman of the NHS Consultants Association, said: “The multinationals are very keen to get their hands on GP practices because this will put them in charge of the money used to commission the vast majority of patient care. They can then buy that care wherever they like – including the private sector.”
By hiring United Health, the trust could save up to £30 a patient.
A trust spokeswoman said: “When individual scores were collated, lengthy discussion was undertaken, and it was the unanimous decision of the panel to recommend United Health as preferred bidder for the three practices. This reflected the quality of the bid, the competitive contract price and the panel’s confidence in the bidder to deliver the services.”
United Health are due to begin work from next month.

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