‘Stop using our patients as reform guinea pigs’ – MP
HOLBORN and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson has told the government to stop using Camden patients as “guinea pigs” in its reforms of the NHS. He used a parliamentary speech to blast the record of UnitedHealth, the private firm which has seized control of three surgeries in the south of the borough.
“Three GP practices were privatised – there is no other way to describe it,” Mr Dobson told the House of Commons last Tuesday. “I expected – perhaps rather cynically – that it would put on an absolutely wondrous show as an example of what a good job it could do. “Since the new company took over, appointment times for each patient have been reduced from 15 minutes to 10. If the visit or appointment is unscheduled, people get only five minutes and are told that they can talk about only one problem, even if they have more.”
Mr Dobson is alarmed by the possibility that UnitedHealth may be interested in running one of three polyclinics – supersized clinics which draws GPs and hospital outpatient services together under one roof – proposed for Camden.
Mr Dobson said: “Will UnitedHealth, which has already taken over the three GP practices in the area, be able to bid for and take over the polyclinic? If so, that will be despite the fact that its owners have been indicted for fraud and every form of swindling of taxpayers, patients and doctors in the United States. “We would end up with a US company having something approaching a local monopoly in part of my area. “The first priority of the people running a private sector company is to put the interests and needs of shareholders first.”
Tory MP Mark Simmonds, the shadow minister for health, said: “The current Secretary of State’s view is that there is uniformity of opinion in London that polyclinics are a good idea, but that view was clearly shot to pieces by the right honourable gentleman’s contribution.”