Socialist Worker

Protesters fight US corporate takeover of GP services

Issue No. 2752

Campaigners protested outside the headquarters of Operose, a subsidiary of Centene, in central London

Campaigners protested outside the headquarters of Operose, a subsidiary of Centene, in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Health campaigners across Britain joined a day of action on Thursday against the takeover of GP practices by a US healthcare giant.

Protests were organised across London and in Nottingham, Birmingham Leeds and many other areas.

Operose Health, a British subsidiary of the US Centene firm, has taken over so many local doctors surgeries that it now has around 530,000 patients on its books.

One of those is The Laurels GP practice in north London, where some 50 protesters gathered.

Among them was Gordon Peters, who used a megaphone to convey his anger. “This is a fundamental struggle for the protection of our rights,” he said. “Which some of us born before the formation of the NHS thought we could take for granted.

“Now we have to fight against the profiteers.”

Local Labour councillor Noah Tucker agreed, declaring that Centene were “corporate gangsters, skimming off the profits and cherry-picking the most lucrative parts of our NHS”.

In central London, around 50 people gathered at Operose’s headquarters to join a noisy protest. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among them and spoke out against the continuing privatisation of the health service—a process the Tories wrongly claim to have ended.

Switchboard 

Meanwhile, more than 150 porters, cleaners, switchboard and catering workers at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle have returned to picket lines for three days from Friday.

The workers and their Unison union are furious that giant private contractor Mitie is refusing to pay NHS rates.

Mitie’s annual accounts reveal the privateer generated a whooping £2.2 billion of revenue in 2020. The company also boasts of cash assets of almost £125 million, and is handing out £14.4 million in dividends to shareholders.

Yet Mitie workers are being told the company cannot afford to pay normal NHS rates for working evenings, nights and weekends.

In an email to Unison, Mitie boss Phil Bentley claimed the company “simply can’t put ourselves, and our 80,000 colleagues, out of business by agreeing to pay costs that aren’t ours to bear”.

Unison regional organiser Dave Atkinson said the company’s claims are nonsense. “It is our taxes that fund Mitie’s contract with North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust,” he said.

“It is beyond scandalous that these taxes help to pay for the Mitie bosses’ staggering wages and multi-million pound shareholder dividends.

“All this while Mitie pays frontline Cumberland Infirmary workers the minimum wage.”

The workers in Cumberland have already taken four days of strikes in recent weeks and need now to feel the support of the wider movement. It’s time that all the health service privatisers were brought to heel and eliminated from the NHS.

Messages of support to [email protected] Follow Unison Cumbria & north lancs health branch on Facebook for updates

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