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The independent London newspaper

Patients’ bid to take back GP surgery

As profit-making firm running NHS docs prepares to pull out, calls to reverse privatisation

11 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A CAMPAIGN to reverse privatisation of an NHS-funded GP surgery has been launched in Soho.

Four-thousand patients have been told that profit-making company Living Care Medical Services will stop running the Soho Square GP surgery in March next year.

The Central London Clinical Commissioning Group – which decides how NHS funding is spent in Westminster – has launched a tender to find a new operator.

But Wendy Hardcastle, vice-chair of the surgery’s patient group, said any contract talks should be delayed as the government was due to announce a major rowing back of NHS privatisation policy.

Ms Hardcastle said the CCG should not be drawn towards setting up another system where “profits vie with patient services”, adding: “We are particularly concerned at the speed with which CLCCG are rushing through the procurement, rather than install a temporary provider, which would enable the local communities to have discussions with the CLCCG about the best outcome for the practice.”

She added: “It was recently reported in the media that the forthcoming Queen’s Speech will announce that NHS privatisation will be reined in under proposed reform plans and that it will no longer be necessary for NHS contracts to be tendered.”

The government is believed to be preparing to announce that a key plank of former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, which led to a record £9.2billion of NHS contracts being awarded to private firms, is to be abandoned.

The automatic tender of NHS contracts worth more than £615,278 will be stopped under the new regime, it has been reported.

GPs are themselves independent contractors and not employees of the NHS. But in the past 15 years, profit-making companies have been set up specifically to bid for NHS contracts to run GP surgeries.

Firms from around the country have won contracts to run surgeries based on low-cost bids that have led to patient service being negatively affected.

This was the case at Soho Square, said Ms Hardcastle, who has led campaigns to stop the closure of the surgery over the last five years.

She said: “Without the action of the PPG, it is certain the Soho Square General Practice would have been closed down, like others earmarked for closure at the same time.

“The PPG hopes that, after the last few difficult years, this can be an opportunity to restore the excellent practice that we previously enjoyed, and that a local solution can be found.”

The CCG has texted patients saying the surgery is not going to close, and sent a letter adding: “In deciding which approach to take we need to consider all relevant information, such as the size, make-up and diversity of the practice population, public health information, the availability and condition of the existing premises and the number, capacity and quality of other local GP practices.”

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