Guest blog by Sarah Cox:
If the Accident and Emergency Department at Central Middlesex Hospital closes, as proposed in every option in the NHS NW London consultation document Shaping a Healthier Future, residents in Brent’s poorest wards with the greatest health needs will be at the mercy of private health care provider Care UK which runs the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex.
Urgent Care Centres are designed to take the pressure off A & E departments by dealing with minor injuries and less serious illnesses. Fine, but one of the reasons people go to their doctors or to A & E when the doctor isn’t available, is that they are not medically qualified so don’t necessarily know how serious (or not) their condition is. One of the NW London NHS documents gives the example of a mother who takes her baby to A & E with a high temperature. She is told that the baby is just teething. One of the functions of qualified medical staff should be to reassure patients. What about the case where the baby’s high temperature is not caused by teething but is a symptom of meningitis? Meningitis is hard to diagnose, but if not treated very quickly, can be fatal. There have been reports of Urgent Care Centres failing to spot meningitis and sending a stroke victim home http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5185165/Urgent-care-centres-putting-patients-lives-at-risk-doctors-warn.html
As a patient, Care UK’s record doesn’t fill me with confidence:
X-rays: At the CMH Urgent Care Centre, Care UK failed to carry out the required checks on 6,000 x-rays, missing such details as broken bones http://www.channel4.com/news/flaw-leads-to-review-of-patient-x-ray%20records. All x-rays should be reviewed by a specialist to make sure that nothing has been missed, they should also be checked against the child protection register and GPs should be informed when their patients have attended the UCC. Care UK neglected to do this and took more than a year to find the flaw in their system and start to review the x-rays. Channel 4 reports, ‘Asked how it had happened, Care UK blamed it on "a couple of changes in the management structure of the team that ran the centre". They also failed to report it to the Care Quality Commission. Care UK said that although it was not legally obliged to do this, it "probably should have told CQC, but nobody picked up the phone".’ What a caring attitude!
The contract to run the CMH Urgent Care Centre was given to Care UK by the former Brent Primary Care Trust. All eight Brent NHS clinical directors wrote urging them not to sign the contract, but were told they were too late. Former members of that PCT are now non-executive directors of Care UK and NHS Brent is tied into a contract with Care UK that they cannot get out of.
Friends in high places: The wife of Care UK’s then chairman gave £21,000 to Andrew Lansley when he was shadow Health minister to help run his constituency office in the run up to the general election, an investment that has certainly paid off when you see how many contracts the firm has been awarded in the NHS and social care sectors.
Tax avoidance Care UK, which operates NHS treatment centres, walk-in centres and mental health services, has a reduced tax bill by taking out loans through the Channel Islands stock exchange and coming to an agreement with HMRC Guardian 17.3.12 Care UK join the likes of Vodaphone and Jimmy Carr in claiming that they’ve done nothing wrong.
There’s more about Care UK, but I’ll leave that for the next instalment. What’s your experience of Care UK or specifically of the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex?