CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Our NHS could be destroyed by these scandalous secret sell-offs

18 February, 2021 — By John Gulliver

Jeremy Corbyn with the leaked documents

PRIVATE meetings, secret gatherings where the public are not invited – this, so far, appears to be the hallmark of a grave decision to be taken this week which will allow well-known GP practices in Camden and Islington to be taken over by a global company based in the US.

You would think that a decision of such grave public interest would be subject to normal democratic debate but you would be wrong.

Locally elected councillors knew nothing of it until this week when they were alerted by Peter Roderick, a lawyer, who has been researching the ins-and-outs of new reforms of the NHS proposed by the government.

He has been working on this for some time, along with the leading eminent critic of government policy, Professor Allyson Pollock, a nationally recognised authority on public health.

The question of the possible takeover of GPs appeared to be aired for the first time on December 17 at a meeting of the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) committee which is funded by the government to help run the NHS in each area.

Prof Allyson Pollock. Photo: allysonpollock.com

Peter Roderick unearthed the fact that the CCG took only nine minutes to approve the takeover by the US company, the Centene Corporation. It was then agreed that a “virtual” meeting would take place on February 17 at which it would be presented with “draft minutes” of the December 17 meeting, making clear “that there is no change to the board of directors”.

Here, you would think the public would be invited to give their views – and here, again, you would be wrong.

It seems there was no intention by the CCG in December to allow this public intervention to take place. Instead, local councillors discovered that members of the public were to be allowed to “ask questions” on the new venture and that these, apparently, would be dealt with at the next meeting on February 17, that is today.

But how? Would this gathering be totally “virtual”? No, my colleagues, who have sought information from the CCGs, believe that under their semi-secret rules the questions will be recorded, and then made public later if requested. In short, there appears to be no intention allow real public debate today.

Peter Roderick

A decision involving the expenditure of a great deal of public money is being taken yet the public is expected to play no part in it. The public purse is being emptied while backs are turned – slippery politics at its worst.

None of this would have been made public this week if it had not been for Peter Roderick who has been digging away for months in government files. He contacted all the local senior councillors to alert them this week – and they, in turn, contacted this column.

He also sent a synopsis of his findings to the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and MP for the constituency where these putative changes altering the local character of the NHS are expected to take place.

In view of his history as a human rights lawyer I wonder what Keir Starmer will make of the way the directors of Centene Corporation appear to run their company meetings.

Peter Roderick also noted in his research that since 2019 Samantha Jones, an ex-head of NHS England, a top health chief executive, has been made the chief executive officer of Centene – she started her career as a paediatric nurse and has worked in both the NHS and private practice. She has been joined by Nick Harding, OBE, a senior health executive with a long-serving GP service.

Sir Keir Starmer

The heart of the matter is the lack of public scrutiny – the essence of democracy. Decisions are being taken in the shadows.

It is this which fuels conspiracies that steps are being taken to “privatise” the NHS and thus change it from a public service, free at the point of delivery – perhaps the only one of its kind in the world – to a privately owned enterprise created simply to create a profit for its shareholders.

A private enterprise will close down a company if it seeps losses, a natural Darwinian act of survival, while a pubic body would be expected to put the needs of the public first.

When the US company bought up a Camden Town GP surgery several years ago it found it was not as profitable as the projected balance sheets suggested – and closed it down. A natural reaction by a private company.

Samantha Jones

A threatening sword is hanging over those GPs now facing a takeover in the capital – nearly 50 of them – and only public debate stands in its way. But this, apparently, isn’t being allowed.

A warning bell was sounded in the 2019 election when the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn disclosed a leaked government document that, according to him, betrayed their intentions to set about the privatisation of the NHS. He was scoffed at by his opponents.

But, sad to say, he does appear to have spotted the coming danger.

This shadow hangs over the NHS at a time when its reputation could not be higher, a point politicians, both left and right, are aware of – to them, at times, it seems almost as if people regard it as a religion.

The great success of the vaccination programme – 15 million citizens have been vaccinated, the highest number in Europe – is entirely due, on the whole, to the high level of efficiency of the centralised NHS system, a public body, with a sense of public service, the very opposite in outlook and philosophy to that of a private health system.

Only state intervention on the scale created by the NHS could have brought this about.

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