Private company in line to take over homeless healthcare
Exclusive: Insiders warn of a “new agenda” of NHS privatisation in Camden
29 November, 2019 — By Tom Foot
The Margarete Centre in Hampstead Road
HOMELESS healthcare will be run by a profit-making company for the first time, with insiders warning of a “new agenda” of NHS privatisation in Camden.
A pioneering GP surgery and outreach service for rough sleepers, based in the Margarete Centre in Hampstead Road, will be run by AT Medics Ltd from April following a decision due to be announced tomorrow (Friday), the New Journal understands.
The Camden Healthcare Improvement Practice (CHIP) has more than 700 registered homeless NHS patients on its books, helping them with drug addiction, alcoholism and mental health problems. It provides contraceptives, vaccines for conditions like HIV and also treatment for common street problems like leg ulcers.
Food vouchers can be collected there while clinicians take prescriptions out onto the street to give to homeless patients. NHS chiefs’ decision to award a new 15-year-contract to a profit-making company has been strongly criticised by insiders including one senior healthcare source who told the New Journal: “There is real concern that the current senior leadership at Camden Clinical Commissioning Group is following a privatisation agenda by stealth. It feels like this is a new agenda. But what we’re really upset by is that they are privatising homeless healthcare. It is profiting from vulnerable groups. “CHIP has been in NHS or charitable hands for 25 years. The staff there will struggle to stay and work for a profit-making organisation.”
The insider added: “More importantly, homeless people will often solicit sex in order to eat sometimes. They may be asked for money by the practice for things like housing letters, that is something we are worried about.”
AT Medics charges for housing letters at the two GP surgeries the company runs in Camden, King’s Cross Surgery and Somers Town Medical Centre. Camden Clinical Commissioning Group had in a report said it had run an “engagement exercise” in March last year about the changes, which were responded to by just 20 patients, from 733 on its rolls.
Explaining the changes, a report said: “As a significant proportion of CHIP patients do not have a permanent address and/or use the practice address on their patient registration, it was not possible to write to each patient individually.” AT Medics says on its website that it was set up in 2004 by a group of GPs “who sensed the changing times of primary care within the NHS before most of their peers”.
The company did not respond to a request for comment. A statement from Camden CCG director of primary and community commissioning, Sarah McDonnell Davies, said: “The process is ongoing so we cannot comment in any detail at this point but re-commissioning will secure this service into the future.”