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Camden New Journal - FORUM: Opinion in the CNJ
Published: 11 June 2009
State of our health service will have Aneurin Bevan turning in his grave

The policy of contracting out services from the renamed primary care trust, NHS Camden, will encourage private companies to cherry-pick potentially profitable parts, argues retired GP Robert MacGibbon

I AM a retired General Practitioner who started and ended my working career in Camden, finally as a part-time assistant in Cumberland Market.
I have always believed that general practice and primary care are best provided from health centres for 10,000 or more people with a wide range of medical, social and welfare services delivered by multi-disciplinary teams.
In my time, over 40 years, colleagues and I have initiated three health centres in co-operation with mainly public organisations such as social services, local councils, educational institutions, many voluntary bodies and pharmacies, all with the encouragement and support of the local NHS administration.
Camden Primary Care Trust (PCT), now renamed NHS Camden, is in the process of commissioning a completely new misnamed GP-led health centre (GPLHC) in the south of the borough.
There is now a shortlist of four or five organisations which are competitively bidding for the contract to run the centre.
Only one of those organisations is a locally formed social enterprise.
We are not told who the others are for commercially sensitive and business confidentiality reasons.
None will actually be “GP-led”.
My concern here in Camden is that the all-pervasive national policy of introducing competitive market forces into the contracting out of primary care services by the PCT is in effect breaking up the NHS and encouraging private companies to cherrypick potentially profitable parts of our public service.
This is all done with public money and without open consultation.
Private companies, while no doubt fulfilling their contracts, exist first and foremost to make profit for their owners and their shareholders.
Accountability, continuity and long-term commitment to developing integrated services will all be lost over time.
Furthermore, the central NHS guidance on commissioning major new projects in the NHS is that there should be local consultation first.
The Camden PCT Primary and Urgent Care Strategy Discussion document is still only in draft form some four months after the procurement process for the GPLHC was already initiated.
Instability, uncertainty, distrust among GPs and local healthcare workers and fragmentation of the services are all pervasive here in Camden now.
The NHS administration has become defensive and confrontational; a long way from the co-operation and facilitation of my past experience.
Aneurin Bevan, the mid-husband of the NHS, must be turning in his grave with anguish at what is going on.
He believed that this could not happen because he thought that the British people would never allow a comprehensive, publicly-funded health service to be privatised.
We must all strive to prevent the privatisation of our NHS and to Keep it Public.

• Robert MacGibbon FRCGP is a retired GP, born in Haverstock Hill and now living in Kentish Town. He trained in Camden & Islington and started his NHS professional life at the Camden Road Practice and last worked at the practice in Cumberland Market. Over 40 years he started three health centres here and in Norwich.

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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Your comments:
Thanks to the CNJ for giving publicity to the changes being planned for our local health services: changes being planned before consultation has even begun. If readers want to know more, there will be a deputation to the Camden Health Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 18 June.
June Grun, Savernake Road NW3


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