New Labour’s vision of an NHS opened to market forces moved a step closer last week as Care UK became the first private company to take over a GP’s surgery.
Health minister Lord Warner announced on Thursday of last week that the company had won a contract to provide services to 7,000 patients in the east London borough of Barking & Dagenham.
The deal, thought to be worth £5 million over five years, was brokered directly by the government. Similar schemes are proposed in Hackney, Bradford, Ribble Valley, Plymouth and Sefton.
Professor Allyson Pollock of Edinburgh university points out that the deal would “take GPs and nurses from the NHS”. She adds, “Care UK doubled their profits last year, but… they have very little experience of providing direct NHS services of any kind.”
Although the deal is unlikely to yield large profits for Care UK in the short term, Pollock argues that corporations are “using GP practices as a loss leader to come in and take more and more of the NHS budget”.
Private sector involvement in healthcare is one of the key factors underlying the NHS’s £1.5 billion financial deficit, which has led to 14,000 jobs being cut in the last two months.
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