The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

Why did number of patients with serious illnesses fall after Camden Road Surgery was taken over by a private company?

    Camden Road Surgery

    An inquiry has heard how Camden Road Surgery patients' health appeared to improve after it was taken over by UnitedHealth in 2008

    Published: 17 May, 2012
    by TOM FOOT

    THE numbers of patients diagnosed with serious illness at a surgery in Camden Town plummeted in the years after it was taken over by a private health company.

    The Camden Road Surgery was in 2008 ranked as having one of the worst rates of a range of conditions – such as depression, cancer and unusual heartbeat patterns – in the country.

    But by last year its patients’ health improved right across the board, with the practice hitting statistics placing it among the best in the country.

    Speaking at the first day of a public inquiry into the surgery’s closure in April, Dr Paddy Glackin said: “Either patients have become much healthier or these conditions are not being identified.”

    He said the high turnover of locum doctors at the surgery and the loss of long-standing GPs, which followed the private company takeover, could explain the vanishing illnesses.

    Camden Road was one of three surgeries – King’s Cross and Brunswick were the others – taken over in 2008 by UnitedHealth.

    Dr Glackin was at the council-run inquiry as secretary of Camden and Islington Local Medical Committee, a statutory body representing doctors.

    The majority of the Camden Road Surgery’s patients come from Agar Grove and Somers Town, one of the most deprived areas in  the country.

    Inquiry chairwoman, Labour councillor Angela Mason, questioned figures, published by NHS chiefs, that the surgery had 450 “vulnerable patients”.

    She said: “I was rather surprised by how low that was for a practice of more than 4,500 patients.”

    Camden Road was one of three surgeries taken over by UnitedHealth in 2008.

    It closed on April 13 with NHS bosses refusing to fund a replacement and “dispersing” and “allocating” the majority of patients to other surgeries in Camden and Islington.

    Dr Glackin told the inquiry it “was the first case of a practice giving up a contract because of lost premises”, adding: “I have never heard of a practice of this size being dispersed.

    "For a list of more than 4,500 we have never done that before.”

    He added that the North Central London NHS sector trust was “having a hard time” and did not have the staff to undertake major contracts.

    NCL is being dismantled and disbanded following government reforms to the NHS.

    The Town Hall inquiry committee – comprising councillors Paul Braithwaite and Peter Brayshaw as well as Cllr Mason – was set up to investigate the process to ensure it “never happens again”.

    Its crucial focus is the transfer of the three surgeries from UnitedHealth to another private company, the Practice Plc in April last year.

    The inquiry heard for the first time details about the original 2008 contract with UnitedHealth.

    Obtained by Camden Keep Our NHS Public, the contract – unusually for the NHS – did not contain any legal requirement that the three surgeries could not be sold on to another contractor, the inquiry heard.

    It was told that the surgery’s partner and owner, Dr Robert Harbord, was off work for three months “sick with stress”.

    Patient Harriet Wichtowski, a counselling psychologist, told the inquiry: “I am disgusted and appalled by the lack of ethics by NCL.”

    John Lipetz, from Camden Keep Our NHS Public, said: “This was a straight cut, with no consultation.”

    He said campaigners would fight for a replacement surgery as the idea that no funds were available was “crazy”.

    The inquiry is expected to hear evidence for two more days.

     

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