The Independent London Newspaper
24th April 2017

GP surgery that was sold to US health company is set to close

    Protesters against UnitedHealth UK in 2008

    Patients left in limbo as surgery sold twice in three years shuts

    Published: February 09, 2012
    by TOM FOOT

    A GP surgery in Camden is to close four years after being taken over by the biggest health company in the United States.

    The Camden Road ­Surgery, a GP practice for almost 100 years, will shut down on April 13. Health campaigners say it should act as a cautionary tale for policy-makers aiming to reform the NHS.

    Staff have been given their marching orders and  4,700 patients are being uprooted and told to sign up at practices as far away as Highgate.

    It follows the failure of private operators The Practice Plc to negotiate an extension to a lease with the building’s owners or to secure alternative premises nearby.

    The company took over the surgery last April from American private health operators UnitedHealth UK, which controversially outbid local ­doctors to win the contract to run three practices in Camden in 2008.

    There was a flood of protests from doctors and patients when the deal was agreed. The Camden Primary Care Trust was criticised at the time for overlooking historic connections in favour of the best possible financial deal offered by companies capable of shaving costs by running multiple surgeries. The compar­ison was made to the way a supermarket can hoover up business from small, independent shops.

    Labour Holborn and St Pancras MP and former Labour Health Secretary Frank Dobson said: “Camden Road was an excellent practice when it was run by local doctors.

    “Then it was farmed out to UnitedHealth, who promised improvements and to run it cheaper. They didn’t fulfil all their obligations.

    “Then, without consultation, they sold the franchise on to the practice. Now, lo and behold, the practice is closing.

    “This is what you get with marketisation and this is exactly what the Tories want everywhere.”

    Crucially, the freehold is held by Dr Robert Harbord and his wife Jilian, who was formerly the practice manager.

    NHS officials said they had spoken to them on “several occasions” but added: “They do not wish to renew the lease as they are returning the building to residential use.”

    The couple are held in very high regard around Camden Town after decades of loyal service to generations of NHS patients at the surgery. They were unavailable for comment this week but friends who spoke to the New Journal said they were unsettled about the way UnitedHealth were given the contract four years ago and what had happened since. One source said they felt ousted from their own surgery.

    A list of 4,700 patients will now be “cleaned” and then “dispersed” or re-allocated to other surgeries, including James Wigg Practice in Kentish Town. James Wigg partner Dr Roy MacGregor said he could take some of the extra patients but only if the NHS paid for more staff at the practice.

    In a letter to NHS bosses, Labour Cantelowes ward councillor Phil Jones said: “I am completely opposed to closure of Camden Road surgery and extremely concerned about the thousands of Camden residents affected by this.

    “This will be a massive blow to many patients and I’m afraid I disagree that there is sufficient capacity at other local practices.”

    Camden Road patient Martha Dunkley said: “I am a long-term patient going back 30 years and I remember UnitedHealth saying they were going to protect this place.

    “Now all the staff are getting fired and it is closing. I have various chronic conditions. I am 64. Dr Harbord was my NHS doctor for 15 to 20 years. I could not fault him.”

    The North Central London NHS sector trust, which organises funding for health services in Camden, insist the borough’s practices have space to take Camden Road’s patients.

    A spokeswoman from The Practice said: “The lease on the property expires in April and, although the PCT and The Practice have both worked tirelessly to negotiate an extension to this lease, unfortunately the landlord has decided not to grant an extension.”

    Camden Road has been a surgery since the 1920s and was run for 60 years  by Dr Abraham Isaac Silverman.

    The last Labour government introduced legislation allowing private companies, such as UnitedHealth, and The Practice, to profit from the NHS by bidding for contracts to run GP surgeries.

    Dr Paddy Glackin, who represents doctors in Camden as secretary of Londonwide Medical Committees (LMC), said: “I don’t think there is a single private operator that has seen out the full length of its contract to run a GP surgery in inner London. It is essentially for the same reason: they cannot deliver the practice at NHS prices.”

    A UnitedHealth spokeswoman said yesterday (Wednesday) the Camden Road Surgery was “nothing to do with us anymore”.

    Comments

    did anyone actually read the article?

    The building was still owned by the original GP. He decided not to grant a lease renewal to the current GP and decided to use the building for residential property - so the practice had to close.

    This has nothing to do with Private Care and everything to do with a PCT that sold a "going concern" without considering the potential for the freeholder (the old GP) to refuse to grant a new lease to the new Practice / GP.

    The inability of NHS Managers to negotiate contracts and foresee likely risks is the real issue here - nothing else. To anyone who dealt with the bunch of muppets who used to run Camden PCT this won't come as any surprise.

    Meeting re: Camden Road closure

    As a patient at Camden Road Surgery who only found out about the closure from a leaflet on a lamppost outside the surgery, I feel sickened and frightened about what this all represents in light of the proposed 'Health and Social Care Bill' currently going through Parliament. If anyone else is equally horrified at the mess this will make of the NHS (Camden Road Surgery being a prime example), please sign this epetition:

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22670

    There is a meeting tomorrow evening at 8pm (Tues 13th March) at Maiden Lane Community Centre, NW1 9XZ (off Agar Grove) about the surgery's closure. Frank Dobson and local councillors will be attending. Please come too, whether you are directly or indirectly affected.

    Thank you CNJ for being on the case, I hope you'll be sending a reporter to the meeting and trying to get the national press to pick up on this massive issue.

    Harriet Wichtowski

    Customer query

    As a registered patient of the Camden Road Surgery, I have received no notification of this closure. Are we supposed to be notified?
    But I can't believe they have made such a mess, though there were many people predicting this is exactly what would happen.
    This is the stuff of nightmares. Where are the old and infirm who live close to the existing surgery going to be sent now?
    I despair at these amateurs running our vital services.

    Camden Road Surgery

    As a registered patient of 25+ years at this surgery I can only presume that had Dr Harbord not been so shoddily treated in the rush to award his practice to United Health privateers in the first place, then he might have felt better disposed towards the PCT

    GP Practice

    Is this any surprise to anyone?

    The practice plc

    I am a GP I worked for these guys. The plan is theyleverage the company to the hilt buy everything they can at any cost, make it too big to fail, then grow the company with little sustainability and organic growth, cream off as much as they can. Then fail it ! Or sell it to a fool to fail. Ofcourse it too big to fail .... (A (A Residential home company comes to mind ?) Then rescued by the Goverment.
    Win - Win as far as they are concerned. Child's Play in the grown up world of commerce but rocket science in th NHS. Don't look at the front men ( The GP's) look at the Adults at the top. ( investment Banker! Etcc ) They have just moved their feeding grounds, the pickings are slim in industry at the moment health id growing and stable )The key is you keep the profit needed for future development nobody knows until someone picks up the pieces.
    The difference is GP owned means the practice and their livelihood are intertwined. Ltd company.. Well you just resurrect yourself as someone else.
    As Gp's, we know much about the human body but fortunately resurrection is still beyond us..

    NHS Reforms

    Having read the above article regarding the closure of this GP practice I am appalled. I live in the beautiful county of Devon, though on the surface has a chocolate box appearance hides areas of extreme poverty, we have an extremely high proportion of elderly people with huge demands on local GP practices. Are we going to be in the same situation years down the line as the USA, where Remote Area Medical - a not for profit organisation relying on volunteers has to come in to treat the sick, those who cannot afford spectacles and those who cannot afford basic dental treatment just because medical insurance is out of their reach. This in the richest country in the world. Thank God we don't live in America! If you value the NHS then fight for it.

    GP Practice

    Though GPs who are not part of the NMS but only contractors to it are greedy, thay aren't as greedy as the US health system who need to screw more money. So they sell off shut up and go away. Good reiddance,

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