An enquiry into the closure of a GP surgery in north London that was run by a private company says there was 'a serious loophole' in the contract used to contract with alternative providers such as private companies.
Weaknesses in the contract used in this case allowed NHS primary care services provided by private companies to be freely transferred and the enquiry concluded that this precipitated the closure of a North London GP practice. However a closer read of the enquiry report explains that the main reason for the closure itself was the end of the lease for the surgery and the failure to find suitable alternative premises.
The Camden Road Surgery closed in April four years after it was taken over by UnitedHealth one of the largest private health companies in the US. UnitedHealth was awarded five year contracts to run three Camden surgeries in 2008. However an enquiry by Camden Council found a 'serious loophole' in the deal which allowed the contract for the provision of the services to be transferred to another company The Practice Plc in 2011. After a year when the lease expired and alternative premises could not be found the contract had to be terminated early and this resulted in the practice being closed and patients being dispersed to neighbouring practices.
The enquiry report said: "The panel were of the view that this was a serious loophole. In our view primary care by GPs should not be a commodity traded in the private market and prompt action should be taken to remedy this."
The report also concluded that the surgery was a 'casualty' of the NHS reforms and that a lack of consultation with other GP practices had led to 'unnecessary anxiety' among patients.