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Camden News - By TOM FOOT
Published: 6 August 2009
The area of Hampstead Road where the new health centre will be sited
The area of Hampstead Road where the new health centre will be sited
Private firm wins £20m health centre contract

Campaigners slam decision to snub docs’ consortium after secretive NHS tendering process

DOZENS of doctors from popular neighbourhood practices have been sidelined in favour of a large private company in the race to run a state-of-the-art health centre in Euston.
In a move that has been vehemently criticised by patients, doctors and all of Camden’s political parties, Care UK – a company with no experience of running doctors’ services in London – has been handed the chance to run the borough’s first GP-led health centre.
Camden NHS, the new name for the Primary Care Trust, revealed the firm as its preferred bidder on Friday. The company has 10 days to officially accept the contract. With few other options available, opponents are preparing a High Court appeal.
The centre, which will offer longer opening hours and a walk-in service for at least 10,000 people – is expected to open in Hampstead Road in December.
But the fear is that it will suck patients from established practices in the south of the borough, stripping them of work and funding
To avoid that, doctors in Regent’s Park, Somers Town and Bloomsbury joined forces in a consortium to launch a bid for the £20million NHS contract – but their experience and knowledge of local patients were ignored in a secretive tendering process.
In a joint statement, the consortium of south Camden GPs said: “We were very disappointed not to be chosen to provide this service. Having been providing services in Camden for well over a dozen years, we still firmly believe that we have the right balance of clinical and operational skills combined with local knowledge and a clear understanding of the needs of patients in this part of Camden.”
Dr Paddy Glackin, who represents all Camden doctors as secretary of the Camden Local Medical Committee (LMC) lobby group, added: “The PCT is supposed to work for the people of Camden. But it has created its own special scoring system that has no meaningful weighting for local knowledge or experience.”
So far, nationally, just one in four similar contracts have been awarded to private firms ahead of local doctors.
The Hampstead Road decision mirrors the controversial appointment of American health giant UnitedHealth to run three GP surgeries last April.
In March, the then health minister Ben Bradshaw wrote to Camden outlining his guidelines that GP-led health centres “will only take place where it is ascertained after local consultation with the public they will improve patient care for local communities.”
But unelected health bosses at NHS Camden have taken the decisions themselves, preparing the deal before the public have had their say on whether the centre should be built.
Candy Udwin, of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, said: “The news that NHS Camden has yet again chosen a private company over local NHS doctors is even more shocking since they have refused to even consult over the setting up of the so-called ‘GP-led Health Centre’ and have only just started their consultation over the future of primary care.”
Solicitors at the legal firm Leigh Day & Co, instructed by a Chalk Farm diabetes patient, Willibald Davies, have now written to the Primary Care Trust warning them its consultation is “unlawful”.
Solicitor Richard Stein said: “The [primary care] trust is providing a health service for the public and acting on the public’s behalf. It is their legal duty to consider the public’s views. Unless Camden NHS agrees to withdraw its decision we will have no option but to take this matter to court.”
Care UK – with a board made up of investment bankers, venture capitalists and with a legal responsibility to increase profits for its shareholders – runs three doctors’ surgeries and a handful of health centres outside of the capital. It has also made millions over the last few years by setting up dozens of nursing homes for the elderly.
Patients in Regent’s Park have warned that funding for the super-clinic would be better spent on improving existing practices that are suffering from years of neglect.
At a recent meeting of patients with NHS Camden, patients pointed out that the Regent’s Park Medical Centre had no permanent doctors for two years.
Patient Danny Gallivan, 65, said: “They say this is new money – but it will just end up taking away from the existing practices here.”
NHS Camden chief executive Rob Larkman said: “Since 2007 NHS Camden has made clear our desire to increase access to GP services for the people of south Camden, one of the most deprived areas of the borough. By the end of 2009 a brand new health centre with a brand new GP practice will open offering local people world-class health care, at times convenient for local residents.
“NHS Camden has followed strict national guidelines throughout the tendering process for the awarding of the contact to run this brand new GP centre.”
As the New Journal went to press, Care UK had not responded to requests for a comment.
The newspaper contacted the company on Tuesday and Care UK had two days to reply.

A super surgery?
What the Care UK decision will mean for Camden patients

We are getting a state-of-the-art health centre – so what’s all the fuss about?

Camden patients want their health services run by local doctors who have treated families across south Camden for generations. It is feared that established practices won’t be able to compete with a super-surgery handling 10,000 patients.

So, who will be treating patients then?

Private company Care UK are set to take control. It will be up to the firm to hire doctors and nurses. The company will get a £20million contract to spend how it sees fit.

How else could the money be spent?

Several practices in the south of the borough could benefit from renovation. Many patients want the surgeries they know to be supported.

Where did these changes come from?

The Department of Health dictates policy to the local primary care trust – now named NHS Camden – which decides who to commission services to. Former health minister Lord Ari Darzi, who quit the government last month, came up with the idea for GP-led health centres.

So it’s the government’s fault?

The government came up with the idea but it is NHS Camden, an unaccountable, unelected quango, that has put it in practice. Opponents say NHS Camden should challenge the government if they feel forced to bring in private companies. The lack of fight, critics have argued, suggests members welcome private management of health services.

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SURELY the answer is in the hands of the patients - boycott this outfit and frustrate them by launching an avalanche of complaints against them with the Care Quality Commission. What has 'Care UK' to offer which cannot be provided by local GP's?


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