Thanks to local campaigning, the two GP centres run by Care UK (one in Todmorden and one in Halifax) will remain open until September, when Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) aims to have completed its review of how to provide primary and community unplanned health care (ie urgent care that isn’t A& E).
Care UK has been at the front of the queue for NHS privatisations. It was acquired by vulture fund company Bridgepoint in 2010, and according to Corporate Watch,
“carries huge debt, avoids tax, siphons money off to its private equity owners, and has been accused of negligence and abuse.”
A depressing example of the revolving door between politicians and private health care companies, Alan Milburn, former New Labour Health Secretary, is Chairman of the European Advisory Board of Bridgepoint Capital, the private equity investors behind Care UK.
Calderdale CCG also buys diagnostics from Care UK under Any Qualified Provider in 2013/14. Diagnostics is the use of ultrasound scans to carry out diagnostic examinations. Care UK Specialist Medical Imaging provides ultrasound services to Calderdale NHS, GP Practice Based Commissioners and Hospital Trusts.
Care UK has paid £48m to acquire Harmoni, the former GP out of hours cooperative
In November 2012, Care UK paid £48million to acquire Harmoni, the UK’s largest GP out-of-hours provider. The Guardian quotes the shadow health minister Jamie Reed as saying,
‘As the private sector takes over out of hours services, it’s a dangerous mix of medicine and the money motive’
Harmoni out of hours GP service has faced frequent criticism for putting patients at risk as a result of paring the budget.
Recently, a Harmoni whistle blower revealed that extreme staffing shortages have meant that no GPs have been on call in North Somerset where GPs’ overnight work has been carried out by a single advanced nurse practitioner. According to the whistle blower, the staff shortages are the result of paring down costs in order to meet the company’s budget.
Having paid £48m to acquire Harmoni, the budgetary pressures in Care UK can only intensify.
Updated 24/5/2013 with info about Bridgepoint acquisition of Care UK and Alan Milburn’s position as Chair of Bridgepoint.