Private GP supplier Operose Health, a London-based subsidiary of US healthcare insurer Centene Corporation, has acquired privately owned AT Medics, which operates 37 GP practices across 49 sites in London, The Guardian has reported.
Operose Health already operates 21 GP surgeries in England and the combined operation now covers 500,000 patients.
The merger prompted doctors, campaigners and academics to write to health secretary, Matt Hancock, asking for the Care Quality Commission to investigate the deal.
Colin Hutchinson, chair of anti-NHS privatisation pressure group Doctors for the NHS, and others wrote: “This matter is an example of the privatisation of the NHS by stealth to which we have consistently drawn attention, and which you have, equally consistently, dismissed. We do not expect you to change your point of view, but we are entitled to expect you to consider the matter objectively in light of the evidence and to make your decision on our request fairly.”
Speaking to The Guardian Allyson Pollock, a clinical professor of public health at Newcastle University, commented: “What we’re really worried about is changes in the model of care and quality of service, especially in areas of high deprivation. Practices may employ fewer GPs – and they may bring in substitutes for GPs like pharmacists and nurses – there may be cuts in services and reduced access, for example, closures of branch surgeries.”
However, Professor Nick Harding, Operose’s chief medical officer and a practising GP, said: “The care that we deliver to our patients and the services accessed through our surgeries will not change. We have followed all the required regulatory procedures, including obtaining consent from our CCGs. As a provider of NHS services, care remains free at the point of delivery. In addition, and as with all other GP services throughout the country, we will continue to be regulated and inspected by the Care Quality Commission.”
Liz Wise, director of primary care and public health commissioning for the NHS in London, added: “The ownership of the holding company of AT Medics Ltd has been transferred after consent was given by the relevant commissioners. Patient care remains unaffected by this change and patient data is protected.”
Date published: March 1, 2021