Doctors and Keep Our NHS Public activists in Tower Hamlets, east London, are planning a protest against the privatisation of GP services in the borough.
The doctors are angry that Tower Hamlets primary care trust has rejected bids from local GPs to run the St Paul’s Way health centre, and have instead chosen Atos Healthcare.
Atos Healthcare is the subsidiary of a French-based multinational, and currently provides doctors to assess claims for disability benefit for the Department for Work and Pensions.
Handing over GP surgeries to the private sector is one of the latest attempts to privatise the NHS. The government intends to put batches of surgeries out to commercial tender in what it describes as the “worst doctored areas”. By allowing companies to bid for large groups of surgeries effectively prevents local GP practices from bidding, as they rarely have the resources to mount such proposals.
Protests in Tower Hamlets have forced the primary care trust to state that a further six practices that they planned to put out to tender will be delayed until at least 2009.
Protest against the privatisation of GP surgeries, 2pm, Thursday 31 January, St Paul’s Way Health Centre, St Pauls Way, London E3
Called by Tower Hamlets Keep Our NHS Public and Tower Hamlets GP forum
Campaigners for the NHS are angry that the government is planning to force doctors to promote private healthcare providers to their patients.
Chan Wheeler, the commercial director of department of health, says that he wants to create a “dynamic market” in the supply of both hospital and primary care to NHS patients.
Wheeler, who is a Republican donor and former director of United Health, is angry that three quarters of the way through the financial year less than 5,000 patients have chosen private providers for their NHS treatment.
In 2004 health ministers said that they hoped that up to 15 percent of NHS operations would be carried out by the private sector, yet Wheeler has been forced to admit that the current figure was “less than 5 percent”.