Outraged patients are demanding that local NHS leaders reject a “Trojan horse” takeover of their GP surgeries by Operose Health, and start the public procurement process to find a new provider. Brent CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee is meeting on 17th March to discuss a regional NHS recommendation to approve the Operose takeover of AT Medics Ltd that previously ran the NHS contract for two GP surgeries, Burnley Medical Practice located in the Willesden Centre for Health and Care and The Wembley Practice based in the Wembley Centre for Health and Care.
Operose is a heavily loss-making subsidiary propped up by US based health insurer, Centene Corporation which is registered in Delaware, and has paid no UK tax. Centene could pull the plug on Operose at any time forcing the the shut-down of a large number of GP practices. Centene’s shareholders have accused it of financial cover-up and insider share dealing.
Operose Health’s publicity states openly that its market strategy is to exit NHS contracts that do not make a profit. In one instance an Operose associate company pulled out of running Camden Road Surgery giving patients only 4 weeks to register elsewhere, to the fury of Camden councillors.
Patients argue that an open procurement process will guarantee patient safety and provide sustainable and transparent GP services, as opposed to Brent CCG rubber stamping a takeover where assurances by AT Medics have already been broken and Operose comes with a dubious financial future.
Nan Tewari, a patient of The Wembley Practice, accuses the NHS North West London region of wilfully misusing the pandemic as cover to bounce other local CCGs into rushing through approvals of the Centene/ Operose takeover bid. Former Brent NHS non-executive director, Ms Tewari explained:
It didn’t take much for our own basic internet research of Companies House records to uncover how Operose Health and MH Services are controlled and bankrolled by Centene to the tune of £tens of millions. Then there is the little matter of Operose’s CEO and a director being former senior NHS executives. Is it cronyism and corruption, or serial incompetence by greasy pole climbers, that led NHS NWL to withhold this vital information from the local CCGs?
On the one hand you have NHS region insisting Brent CCG has no choice but to agree the Operose takeover and on the other, it is advising that ultimate responsibility lies with Brent CCG as the legal decision-maker of the Brent GP surgeries’ future. The breathtaking cynicism in this dishonourable ploy lies in NWL region knowing perfectly well that with Brent CCG soon to be abolished under national plans, patients will have no come-back if Centene decides to pull the financial plug on Operose and the surgeries close down. Then, NHS region will shamelessly lament the late Brent CCG’s poor judgement and lack of prudence. I’ve seen a similar scenario played out here in previous years.
NHS NWL says it’s satisfied by unenforceable ‘assurances’ that former GP surgery contract holders, AT Medics, would remain in control of the surgeries, yet in the space of a few short weeks since the Operose takeover, all the AT Medics directors have resigned or been sacked It’s deplorable how NHS region gets away with continually palming off its sub-standard services and empty promises onto Brent patients.
Not that long ago, 3 reputable, UK tax-paying surgeries in Queens Park had wanted to merge and they were made to jump through a load of hoops and be grilled at length by Brent CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee. The double standard of NHS North West London practically instructing the CCG to push through the Centene/ Operose takeover under secrecy of ‘Chair’s Action’ and without any similar questioning, is a public scandal.
As with the Queens Park surgeries’ merger, the CCG must now fulfil its legal duty and moral obligation to Brent patients, and commission a reliable company through open public procurement rules, to run the two surgeries.
BRENT PATIENT VOICE RAISES KEY ISSUES OVER AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION, SCRUTINY, DUE DILIGENCE AND FINANCIAL STANDING
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