At Camden’s Full Council on 19 April, Swiss Cottage Labour councillor Nayra Bello O’Shanahan asked Cllr Pat Callaghan – cabinet member for a healthy and caring Camden – about the recent takeover by US company Centene of four GP practices in Camden.
“For the current Conservative government, our health is just another commodity. They directly awarded more than £10 billion in contracts without much scrutiny, they allocated £37 billion to an outsourced Test and Trace system that has not been able to prevent any lockdown, and now they are launching a white paper that will undermine local government scrutiny powers. The secretary of state for health ignored a recent question by the shadow health secretary, while the government hired the former CEO of Operose Health UK as its main health adviser. Coincidentally, Operose Health UK, the subsidiary of the American health corporation, Centene has taken over four Camden surgeries and the Camden GP Hub. Could you tell us what the council will do to resist further privatisation of our primary health care but also the erosion of democratic scrutiny?”
Cllr Callaghan replied: “We are lucky that in Camden we have always been served by community-focused, hard-working practitioners who really care about our residents, as is evident with the current vaccine rollout. “The recent decision to agree to the change in control to Centene of several GP practices in Camden has raised serious concerns across London, and the 32 councillors who sit on the Health and Well-being Network are both exercised and vigilant – together we are a stronger force.
“In North Central London we have met with the Primary Care Commissioning Committee chair where the decision was taken. Now the five lead members from Barnet, Haringey, Enfield, Islington and myself are attending this meeting in the future, and Paul Sinden the chief operating officer of North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group will be hosting a pre-meeting before each formal meeting. In this way, we hope that such events would be robustly scrutinised before they were passed.
“On 18 February, the five members delivered a deputation outlining our concerns to the committee. We have also written to Matt Hancock as a five-borough team and also a pan London-letter to him including our signatures has been sent. Unfortunately, like his noncommittal reply to Jonathan Ashworth in the House of Commons, we are still awaiting reply or acknowledgement.
“William Beveridge in 1942 declared that “steps on the road of social progress should not be hindered by any sectional interests. Centene comes to mind, and Nye Bevan passed the NHS Act in 1946, so for over 70 years it has stood the test of time and saved countless lives. It’s not for sale – now or ever!”