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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 19:24 GMT
Patient tackles medical 'giant'
The local primary care trust is considering the legal challenge
A Derbyshire patient has started a legal challenge against a move to replace her local GP surgery with one run by a huge health corporation.

Scarcliffe parish councillor Pam Smith has sent a letter to North East Derbyshire Primary Care Trust saying it failed to consult properly.

The trust has chosen United Health Europe (UHE) as its preferred bidder to provide GP services at two surgeries.

It is taking legal advice on Mrs Smith's call for a judicial review.

Why does a big firm from America want to move into our area when we have local practices here already - why give it to a big firm?
Pam Smith, parish councillor

Mrs Smith's letter says the trust has a statutory obligation to consult if it makes significant changes to NHS services - and asserts that the trust has failed to do this.

A trust spokesman said the service was not being changed, but would not elaborate on that position.

Mrs Smith's letter said handing the GP services to a private company does represent a significant change and should go to judicial review.

She called for more consultation, saying: "We need a meeting where we can all sit and talk about it.

"We may be a deprived area but we want to be treated properly - like human beings.

"Why does a big firm from America want to move into our area when we have local practices here already - why give it to a big firm?"

Final contracts

The company's president is Simon Stevens, Tony Blair's former health adviser.

Dr Elizabeth Barrett, a GP in nearby Creswell who attended a village meeting on the issue on Tuesday evening, said: "I think the community is dead set against it - they are suspicious that a large firm will not serve their interests."

She said final contracts have not been signed between the trust and UHE.

Dr John Lister of the lobby group Keep Our NHS Public said the trust was not following its own criteria on hiring firms to deliver health services.

He said UHE has virtually no experience in providing health services in the UK and called for "greater transparency" in the system used to choose service providers.

He called for the Derbyshire County Council health scrutiny committee to get involved in the process.

'Good move'

But Richard Smith, chief executive of UHE, insisted the company would provide a good service.

"This is a good move for local people. We will be able to bring the practices up to the standard of the best in Britain," he said.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said she wants to see alternative providers to help improve access to services in the most deprived areas.

The trust chose UHE from a shortlist of six bids.

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