Largest GP supplier to NHS accused of putting profits ahead of care

man holding his head while talking to the doctor

The NHS’s largest GP providers Operose, have been accused of endangering patient safety, in a recent investigation by BBC Panorama.

Are GP suppliers prioritising profit over care?

A recent investigation from BBC’s Panorama has accused GP suppliers Operose of running their surgeries in a way that prioritises profit over care. 

The investigation by Panorama involved an undercover reporter spending time at one of the practices run by Operose. During this period, it became clear that the surgery was struggling to book appointments for patients, with some having to wait weeks to be seen by a GP. In these instances, a delay in appointment can lead to a delayed diagnosis or increased suffering by patients before proper treatment is provided. It is unknown as to the impact that this may have on delayed diagnosis claims as a result.  

During the investigation, there were occasions that it was not clear that a GP was even available to be seen on some days at the GP, however this was a detail that the reporter was explicitly told not to inform patients about. 

The report revealed that Operose employ around 0.6 GPs per 2,000 people. This is compared to the NHS who employ double this, at 1.2 per 2,000 people. It is not known what impact this had directly on medical negligence claims.  

Physician Associates

Throughout the investigation, it was found that a considerable proportion of the work and patient care being done by the surgery was being carried out by physician associates or PA’s.  

A PA is someone with a medical or related degree and has carried out two years of medical training. Usually, PAs are used to help with tasks such as checking medical records or recording patient systems.  

The investigation however found a worrying amount of work be undertaken by PA’s, that should be carried out by a qualified GP. By working in this way, Operose could be opening themselves to negligence claims, if there were serious errors made on the part of the PAs.  

Operose employs around 6 times as many PAs when compared to the NHS. In the investigation, the accusation is made that Operose do this to cut costs, as PAs cost around half that of a GP. 

Operose have said however that 97% of its practices were rated “good” or “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission. 

Who are Operose?

Operose is the UK arm of the US healthcare giant Centene Corporation. According to the Fortune 500, Centene Corporation are the 26th largest firm in the US, with a revenue of over $125 Billion. 

Operose has spent thousands buying GP surgeries in England, and now own and run 70 surgeries across the country. In total, they serve around 600,000 patients in the country, turning over £88million a year. 

Operose have also taken over AT medics, a London based GP company which run 49 GP surgeries across London. 

In Essex, Operose own and run three GPs in the Southend area, The Practice Northumberland Avenue and The Practice Leecon Way & Hawkwell. 

What are the consequences?

Patients rely on their GPs for regular check-ups and advice, particularly if an individual has an ongoing health condition. 

Often, a GP appointment can be an early stage where referrals can be made for cancer. If patients are waiting weeks or months to get a GP appointment, this could result in a delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

According to the British Medical Journal, a delay of up to 12 weeks for treatment for breast cancer for example, could increase the likelihood of death by over 25%. Delayed diagnosis of other illnesses such as a heart condition, could also lead to heart attacks or strokes 

Specialist delayed diagnosis solicitors

Blackwater Law’s team of medical negligence solicitors act for clients across England and Wales, advising and representing them in making compensation claims relating to medical negligence. A considerable number of the cases Blackwater Law are engaged with involve delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis as a factor contributing towards the negligence. The lawyers at Blackwater Law are therefore very experienced in this area. 

Get expert legal advice

Call today and speak to Zoe Diss, specialist medical negligence solicitor. Find out if you can claim compensation

CALL 0800 083 5500