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  • Kirsten

GP Practices & NHS Privatisation

Over the past year, many constituents have expressed concern that the desperation of post-Brexit Britain for international trade deals will lead to a deal with the USA that could have a devastating impact on the NHS.

As the UK Government’s Trade Bill went through the House of Commons, my SNP colleagues and I backed amendments aimed at protecting the NHS and giving devolved governments a say in trade deals. These were voted down by the Tories, with the full backing of Scotland’s Tory MPs.

Over recent weeks several constituents drew my attention to the takeover of GP practices in England by Operose Health, a UK subsidiary of Centene, an American health insurance company. Operose Health now control GP practices serving around 500,000 patients across England.

The constituents who got in touch with me were concerned that this kind of takeover might affect GP practices in East Renfrewshire.

Having contacted NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC), I was pleased to reassure them that, as things stand, that could not happen. The GP contracts used by NHSGCC and throughout NHS Scotland (known as a GMS contract) limit the types of organisation and individuals who can hold a GP contract. However, in 2004 the UK Labour government introduced a new type of contract (the APMS contract) that can be held by private companies as well as traditional GP partnerships. The House of Commons Library confirmed that Operose Health is operating GP practices in England under the APMS contract and that this is not the first involvement of US healthcare providers in GP services in England.

Introducing the APMS contract was just one more aspect of Labour’s privatisation agenda that left NHS boards and local authorities saddled with massive PFI commitments. Labour are now trying to distance themselves by referring to GP practices operating under the APMS contract as stealth privatisation. Perhaps they could extract an apology from senior Scottish Labour figures, Gordon Brown and John Reid, who introduced these disastrous policies.

There is widespread concern at the Tories refusal to back proposals to keep NHS services out of trade deals, which is why over 1.4 million people have signed a petition on the subject The Tory government’s refusal to protect NHS services in the Trade Bill and the powers they took in the Internal Market Bill to ride roughshod over devolution mean that Scotland’s NHS is now seriously jeopardised by the union.

The determination of successive Westminster governments to privatise the NHS puts Scotland’s publicly owned NHS at risk. The billions of pounds the Tory Government squandered on failed Covid contracts is a sign of Scotland’s direction of travel under the union. Independence is the only real way to protect Scotland’s NHS, from GP services to general hospitals, from the dodgy companies and friendly donors that have so much influence over the UK Government’s health policies.


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