The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

NHS CUTS: no plan to open new GP surgery in Camden Road

    Protesters against UnitedHealth UK in 2008

    Private practice branded ‘a disaster’ as NHS boss says they ‘aren’t allowed to employ doctors’

    Camden Road Practice

    Published: 16 February 2012
    by TOM FOOT

    A TOP health service boss has indicated there are no plans to open a new GP practice in Camden Town despite the closure of a privately run surgery catering for thousands of NHS patients.

    Dr Douglas Russell, medical director of the North Central London sector NHS trust, was speaking at an emergency debate at the Town Hall last Thursday about the closure of the Camden Road Practice.

    Its private operators, The Practice Plc, announced last week that the surgery will close in April leaving 4,700 patients astounded.

    Dr Russell said that under government reforms the NHS could no longer employ its own doctors or buy new premises for a new surgery in the area.

    He added that tendering for a replacement would simply invite more private firms looking to profit from the NHS in Camden.

    Dr Russell said: “I am struggling to understand what the alternative action is. We don’t provide services directly, we are not allowed to any more.

    "A few years ago, we would have been able to take the practice over ourselves and directly employ staff and doctors. We are no longer allowed to do that. Surely you are not asking us to go through another tendering exercise – are you? Be careful what you wish for.

    "My experience is that other providers find it incredibly difficult to make a success of general practice.”

    Dr Russell was speaking before councillors sitting on Camden Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

    The meeting heard claims that the Practice Plc, which took over from the surgery’s first private operators UnitedHealth UK last year, was running the surgery with just one full time doctor when it should have had at least three.

    Dr Russell said: “My information is there is one doctor. That is not satisfactory. My personal, professional opinion is that a list size of 1,500 in an area like this is going to be a real challenge. About 1,600 patients is about as much as one full time doctor can manage.”

    A spokeswoman from the Practice Plc later told the New Journal it also employed another “regular” GP for “continuity of care”, adding: “The Practice can also confirm its two other local surgeries, in King’s Cross and at the  Brunswick Centre, are adequately staffed in relation to a number of patient contacts.”

    Camden Primary Care Trust awarded UnitedHealthUK the contract to run three surgeries in 2008 despite patient protest and bids from experienced local GPs.

    The Camden Road Practice has been in Camden Road for almost 100 years and news of its closure has shocked and outraged patients.

    Its private operators failed to negotiate a lease with long-standing Camden Road GP Dr Robert Harbord and his wife Jilian, the former practice manager.

    They are the freeholders, who ran the surgery for decades until UnitedHealth UK were brought in by the Camden PCT. 

    The couple are returning the building to residential use.

    Labour Cantelowes ward Councillor Phil Jones told Thursday’s meeting: “The Camden Road surgery is an integral part of the social fabric of the area.

    "We talk about choices, but the only choice people really want is for the surgery to stay open.”

    Tony Hoolaghan, associate director of Primary Care at NCL, said there were 8,000 empty patient places in Camden and the NHS would “actively assist the vulnerable” during reallocation.

    Lib Dem Cantelowes ward Cllr Paul Braithwaite told the meeting: “I have some sympathy with Tony for coming to defend the indefensible.

    "But the full recipient of my passion is Camden Primary Care Trust and its high-handed behaviour toward patients. UnitedHealth has been an absolute disaster and flags up some of the risks of back-door privatisation in the NHS.”

    He described claims that patients could be absorbed to other practices as “flim flam”.

    The committee asked medical directors why they were not challenging The Practice or UnitedHealth, but Dr Russell said it was better to “draw a line in the sand”.

    Cllr John Bryant, chairman of the health scrutiny committee, replied: “The fact you are accepting this organisation could be in breach of contract [...]. Somebody let us down – they need to pay.”

    A Practice Plc spokesman said: “Working with the PCT we are currently in consultation with our patients in order to ensure they will continue to be looked after within the area once the surgery has closed. [...] As a result of the Camden Road surgery closing, The Practice is not in breach of the contract for Camden Road.

    See Comment
    See Letters

    Calls to bring practices back under public control



    Defend your NHS, local and mayoral elections organize now to wipe this vile lib dem tory scum off the face of the earth.

    I thought this was a spoof.....

    Until I realized this is the reality of the Coalition's NHS reforms.

    Post new comment

    By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.