6 April 2021
An American healthcare company, Centene, has just taken over 49 NHS GP practices. In addition to the 21 GP practices they already controlled, it is now the largest single private primary care provider in England, responsible for the primary care needs of half a million people.
And Centene's intention is to grow even further.
Here are 3 reasons why Centene running your GP is a terrible idea and why you need to oppose them now!
1. They’re in it just for the profit
We already know Centene is a deeply profit-greedy company. It has a clear track record in the US. Centene was found guilty by a court in the US state of Arkansas last year for systematically underpaying doctors who worked for them.
Centene was fined by the US state of Washington in 2017 for, by the company's own admission, not providing enough doctors to serve people it sold health insurance to. In 2018 Centene was the target of a class-action lawsuit for similar allegations.
Just this March, the company was sued by the State of Ohio for allegedly creating schemes “to fleece the taxpayer out of millions.” And just last week it was revealed that the state of Mississippi is also investigating Centene.
Centene's money-grabbing practices were so egregious the Attorney General of Ohio, David Yost, accused the company of "Corporate greed" and said it tried to deceptively extract money from the taxpayer using complex schemes.
There is no reason to expect that Centene will not prioritise making money in their running of GP practices in our communities.
2. The quality of care you receive will suffer
When a profit-driven company like Centene is given a set amount of money to run a GP practice, its first thought is to find ways to spend as little of that money as possible, because the less it spends the more they can pocket in profits. That does not bode well for the quality of the care you end up receiving.
So it will skimp on the care you receive and they’ll skimp the pay and conditions of staff. And the company has a track record of doing just this. As was mentioned above, Centene was found guilty by a court of law of systematically underpaying doctors that worked for them. The company was similarly fined for not providing a sufficient network of doctors to people it sold health insurance to.
Moreover, as has been reported by healthcare outlet HSJ, Centene's UK subsidiary (the company directly responsible for the Uk GP practices) has been keen to introduce new models of care that cuts doctors out of healthcare by replacing them with non-GP staff.
And, of course, if Centene can't make a big profit from your local GP practice, it will more than likely close it like they closed down a GP practice in Essex in 2018.
3. This is privatisation and privatisation always leads to disaster
"But GPs were private anyway, and the practices are going from private to private, right?" WRONG. GPs have always been people who worked in their own community and cared deeply about the communities they served and didn’t do it for the money. Their salary was regulated.
Read here about what changed in 2004 that allowed huge companies that are not run by GPs to apply to run clinical services and make huge profits. Centene is precisely such a company. It is a whole other ball game from your mom-and-pop GP practice or even from the larger GP partnerships that are normal in the NHS.
With Centene in control, your GP will become answerable to people who are making decisions based not on what’s good for you, but on what’s profitable for the company.
We have seen what happened with the Serco-run track and trace system during this pandemic. It’s been a disaster. We can’t have that at our GP practices.
Image credit: John Blower - Creative Commons