Patients are up in arms at plans to privatise a key part of Hackney’s health services.
Contracts to run two health centres have been put out to tender amid protests from patients and campaigners that they were not consulted over potential private sector bids.
A petition signed by 800 people – some patients of the practices in question – was presented to City and Hackney Primary Care Trust (PCT) at its 11 September board meeting.
The petition, drafted by campaigning group Hackney Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), called for an end to the possible ‘sell-offs’ of health services, arguing that private companies would put the interests of shareholders ahead of patients.
The campaigners say the privatisation of services offered in the borough will lead to a lower quality of care.
They argue that private healthcare firms employ doctors on short-term contracts, damaging the patient – doctor relationship.
The contracts to run a new service at the Oldhill practice in Stamford Hill and a similar one at a yet-to-be-confirmed site in south eastern Hackney have been put out to tender in response to a government initiative.
At the packed PCT board meeting, which was held in public, local solicitor and KONP campaigner Wendy Pettifer said, “People don’t know the private tendering process is happening. The majority of residents would be against the private sector running health centres.”
Steve Gilvin, the PCT’s director of primary care consulting, replied that the PCT had carried out polling of patients – but he added that the type of provider was “not an issue for consultation”.
Sharon Patrick, the PCT’s non-executive director, said she had been contacted by Hackney LINk – a group that represents health service users – who told her it had not been informed the practices were up for grabs to private companies.
Camden KONP was left outraged recently after the contract to run a health centre in that borough was awarded to corporate giant CARE UK before the public consultation had ended. The group is now taking legal action.
One campaigner, Bronwen Handyside, told the Citizen, “We know there are 40 bids in and we know that CARE UK has put up bids all over the country for these kinds of services.”
PCT chief executive Jacqui Harvey said the Trust was obliged to allow companies to tender for the contracts. She said, “What matters to us most is having GPs deliver the best possible care to our residents.”