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NHS anti-privatisation campaigners vowed to fight on today after a court overruled their objections to the takeover of GP practices in London by US profiteers.
Campaigners argued at the High Court on Wednesday that there had been a lack of consultation with patients following the takeover early last year by Centene’s UK subsidiary Operose Health of the privately owned AT Medics, which was set up in 2004 by six NHS GPs and which runs 37 GP practices across London.
Anjna Khurana, a Labour member of Islington Council in north London and a patient at one of the affected GP practices, brought the High Court claim and was supported by campaign group Keep Our NHS Public.
She alleged that the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England acted “unlawfully in failing to take reasonable steps” to look into the financial stability of the new companies.
Her lawyers said concerns over Centene include it being sued by US states for allegedly overcharging their health programmes as well as allegedly “failing to provide adequate medical care under insurance contracts.”
Centene has also been fined for not providing enough doctors under some US health insurance contracts, it was alleged.
But in a ruling issued on Wednesday, Ms Justice Hill dismissed Ms Khurana’s claim.
The judge said she recognised the “strength of feelings” about Centene in the case, but said she had received “assurances over the limited impact of the new corporate structure on service provision.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Despite this deeply disappointing judgement the fight continues against the accelerating pace of privatisation of the NHS in England.
“We must not allow our GP services to be hived off to profit-hungry private healthcare companies.”
Doctors in Unite chair and Tower Hamlets GP Dr Jackie Applebee said: “While this is a setback, it will make us be all the more determined to expose the misguided privatisation ideology that is undermining the founding principles of the NHS — that services are free at the point of delivery for all those in need.”
Fenella Morris QC, representing the commissioning group and NHS England, said in written arguments that Centene “does not influence” the day-to-day operation of AT Medics, branding Ms Khurana’s claims about the company “speculation” and her concerns over private ownership of the NHS “political.”
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