Nurses urge NHS to monitor private firm involvement

Nurse leaders have warned the NHS must monitor carefully how the involvement of large commercial firms in primary care affects patients and staff.

Dr Hunt, from Care UK, said clinicians at the centres would not change
Dr Hunt, from Care UK, said clinicians at the centres would not change

A series of corporate takeovers this month saw the firms behind nearly one in 10 GP-led health centres change in a week.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group bought a 75.1% stake in Assura Group's GPCo medical services business last week. In an interim report last September, Assura said it owned 30 GPCos serving 3.1 million patients. Around half of these are GP-led health centres.

Meanwhile, Care UK, which runs primary care services including 11 GP-led health centres, one GP practice and four GP out-of-hours services, has been acquired by private equity firm Bridgepoint. Both Care UK and Virgin said frontline provision and management of care would be unaffected.

But Lynn Young, RCN primary care adviser, said: ‘We need to look carefully and be vigilant about what's going on with regard to patient care and staff care.'

Dr Mark Hunt, managing director of healthcare at Care UK, said clinicians at the centres would not change.

‘The change will be in how cash is accessed to provide services,' he said. ‘There has been a difficulty getting loans and money from banks recently, so the route to help fund the growth of Care UK is through private equity.'

He said investment would bring a ‘better built environment' for patients. He hoped to double the size of Care UK within five years.

A spokesman for Virgin Group said: ‘Patients will not see any difference. The idea is that we are investing in the business, and looking to invest between £15m and £20m over the next three to four years to expand what's been started.'

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