In February earlier this year, Operose Health, a subsidiary of the American Centene Corporation, acquired AT Medics. AT Medics operates 49 GP surgeries across London, providing services to around 370,000 people employing 900 individuals. This includes St Ann’s Surgery in Tottenham, which provides an essential service to those in my constituency.
This takeover has occurred without any prior consultation with either patients or the public, with no public scrutiny or accountability taking place.
I am deeply concerned that this is a clear representation of the stealth privatisation of our National Health Service.
Furthermore, Centene has a poor track record of operating subsidiary companies. In the United States, Coordinated Care, one company Centene operates, was fined £1.5 million in 2017 due to its failure to provide an adequate network of health providers. This resulted in policyholders being unable to access treatment and many were faced with surprise medical bills.
Most recently, Centene is facing a lawsuit in Ohio due to business practices. The attorney for the state of Ohio stated that they were involved in “An elaborate scheme to maximise company profits at the expense of the Ohio Department of Medicaid”.
I believe that this represents the slow removal of the NHS and its public bodies from public hands. The Labour Party has been warning the government over the past few years that US healthcare firms are circling to swoop on the NHS.
The government need to act now to prevent this takeover and block the NHS from being parcelled up and sold off.
The government claimed in a recent White Paper that many aspects of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which introduced competitive tendering would be repealed. Labour has consistently been opposed to the Act on the grounds it has fragmented services and undermined the principles of the NHS as a comprehensive and universal healthcare system.
Our NHS has been put through one of the most difficult times in its history. It has provided an essential service throughout this crisis and has been forced to rely on acts of heroism to continue due to critical underfunding.
We need proper scrutiny of such takeovers to prevent the private takeover of practices happening in the future.
In January 2019, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, pledged to MPs that there would be ‘no privatisation of the NHS on my watch’.
Rest assured, I will continue to push the Health Secretary to stick to his word.