On February 1 and 2, the High Court heard a judicial review into the takeover of London GP Practices by Operose Health, a subsidiary of US health insurance company Centene Corporation.
The judicial review application received public financial support of over £43,424 to cover the cost of the application and a further £34,284 should the case be dismissed.
A patient from one of the acquired GP practices in London, Anjna Khurana, filed for judicial review on 3 grounds;
- The North Central Commissioning Board (NCL) excluded material information when it considered awarding the contracts;
- NCL has not obtained information on the financial stability of Centene Corporation; and
- NCL failed to consult or involve patients and stakeholders in its decisions.
The High Court announced on February 23 that the judicial review had been dismissed.
With respect to the first ground, the judge asserted that NCL had considered the exercise of due diligence, insurance and any breach of contract before awarding the contracts and therefore NCL had not acted unlawfully by excluding relevant information.
Ground 2 was also dismissed on the basis that NCL had obtained all relevant financial information required, including due diligence reports and documents from Companies House.
Finally, the third ground was dismissed because the judge found that NCL had followed all recommended guidelines regarding patient and stakeholder engagement. The judge noted that the meeting documents were not confidential and could be reviewed by stakeholders so that their thoughts and views could be conveyed at the meeting. The judge also went further on ground 3 to say that “any member of the public with a particular interest in GP services in North Central London would know […] when the PCCC meeting was going to take place and when the documentation would be published in advance” and, therefore, the documents were not inaccessible, as claimed by the requester.
With Operose Health’s takeover of GP Practice now proceeding as planned, many organisations, such as Unite, which helped fund the judicial review, have expressed disappointment with the outcome. However, a spokesperson for NCL’s Clinical Commissioning Group said it was pleased with the outcome and its main priority was to ensure “the continued delivery of high quality, safe and accessible services for the local population. “.
The result marks an interesting development in UK healthcare services controlled by US healthcare companies and highlights the importance of following contractual processes and recommended guidelines.