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Retired Sunderland GP leads campaign against 'backdoor privatisation' of the NHS

Former Silksworth GP Pam Wortley has accused the Government of “trying to privatise the NHS through the backdoor” during a protest rally against a restructuring of the governance of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

By Neil Fatkin
Saturday, 11th June 2022, 5:13 pm
Updated Saturday, 11th June 2022, 5:42 pm

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The Health and Care Act, which comes into effect on July 1, will see the trust become one of 42 NHS bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS) with North East and Cumbria ICS overseeing healthcare in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Under the new framework, private companies will be able to take up positions on ICS boards and take an active role in decision making – something which Pam, who is also chair of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign group (KNOP), is vehemently against.

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Dr Wortley said: “There are already a large number of companies providing NHS services such as Vocare, who run out-of-hours GP services at walk-in centres, and Operone who oversee GP practices.

"You then have Serco, who the Government commissioned to run Test and Trace as part of its £37bn investment, and £4bn paid to private companies for PPE, a large amount of which went unused as it was sub-standard.

"At the end of the day, private companies are there to make profit and this restructuring is part of a backdoor method to privatise the NHS.”

KONP are concerned private companies taking up positions on boards will give them further undue influence and worry decisions may become financially motivated.

The Sunderland and District Keep Our NHS Public campaign group have been protesting about the increasing number of private companies in the NHS.

The group were handing out leaflets to members of the public and calling them to write to North East and North Cumbria ICS board chair, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, to urge him to ban private companies from taking up positions on the board.

KONP Sunderland secretary Laura Murrell said: “We saw how triumphantly the vaccination drive that the NHS ran went, whereas the Test and Trace programme run privately by Serco and Sitel was feckless and ineffectual.

"Private companies are primarily bothered about making money for their shareholders and this simply opens the door to further privatisation.”

KONP are part of the national We Own It campaign.

Campaign Leader Johnbosco Nwogbo said: “Opening the boardroom doors to private companies who could stand to benefit financially from decisions made by the board about the healthcare available to people in South Shields and Sunderland looks bad and smells bad.”