North London NHS bosses say they weren’t informed the ownership of a company running a GP practice had changed hands – amid criticism from patients.

The US owners of Operose Health Ltd, which runs St Ann’s Road Surgery in South Tottenham, notified the NHS in November about a change of ownership. Operose operates around 60 GP practices in London, and at the time was owned by American health insurance company Centene.

NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board (ICB), which is responsible for primary care locally, commenced a due diligence exercise to assess the standing of the new owner, HCRG Care Group, which is controlled by venture capital firm T20 Osprey Midco.

According to the ICB, the change of control took place on December 28 “prior to authorisation” and the NHS body was only informed about it on March 15.

In a statement North Central London ICB said: “Under the terms of the Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) contracts, providers may not undergo a change of control without the NHS’s prior authorisation.”

It added it was “considering its next steps”.

Cllr Tammy Hymas. Photo: Haringey Labour

Cllr Tammy Hymas. Photo: Haringey Labour

Meanwhile, users of St Ann’s Road Surgery, including St Ann’s ward councillor Tammy Hymas, have criticised the takeover.

Cllr Hymas called it “secretive” and said: “As patients, we are fed up with our local GP being tossed between giant investment firms looking to make a quick buck out of our NHS. Local health bosses must now step to ensure the GP is run in the interests of patients, rather than profit.” 

A patient at the surgery since 2019, Cllr Hymas claims she saw “standards fall” starting in 2021, the same year Centene took ownership of Operose Health, and patient feedback in 2023 included a “lack of GP appointments”, “failing a lot of core safety measures” and “very high staff turnover”.

St Ann’s Road Surgery, Tottenham (LDRS image)

St Ann’s Road Surgery, Tottenham (LDRS image)

According to a report presented to the primary care committee, which is part of the ICB, there was a 20,000 shortfall of appointments at St Ann’s as of April 2023.

A BBC Panorama investigation in 2022 found that GPs under Centene allowed less qualified staff, such as physician associates, to see and treat patients without adequate supervision.

In response to criticism of the takeover, a spokesperson for Operose Health said: “There has been no change to the companies or people that hold our contracts and run our GP services – these are still run by Operose Health Limited and AT Medics (which holds APMS contracts with the NHS but is owned by Operose Health) and by the same local practice leadership and clinical staff. 

“There has been a change of ownership at the ultimate parent company, as the previous owners required completion of the transaction. 

“Patients will continue to be seen by the same practice teams and access care in the same way. 

“Our main priority has, and will always be, providing our patients with high quality primary care. The new parent company is an experienced provider in the health and care sector, including GP practices, walk-in centres and urgent care. 

“They are registered and accredited to provide APMS contracts and 97% of their services are rated good or outstanding by CQC (Care Quality Commission).”