Keep proper journalism alive. It's time to Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Revealed: Private takeover of Bristol GP surgery ‘abandoned’ at last minute

One Medicare was due to take over Charlotte Keel Medical Practice in Easton at the start of July – before NHS bosses abruptly pulled the plug.

Image of the Charlotte Keel Medical Practice GP surgery in Easton, Bristol

The takeover of a Bristol GP service by a private company has been abandoned at the last minute, the Cable can reveal. 

Charlotte Keel Medical Practice, a GP surgery in Easton, is currently run by social enterprise BrisDoc.

The practice was due to be handed over by private provider One Medicare on 1 July after a lengthy tendering process. 

But just a week before One Medicare was due to take over the service under an eight-year contract worth £23m, NHS bosses announced they were pulling the plug. 

BrisDoc has run Charlotte Keel Medical Practice since 2018, when GPs resigned their contract due to reductions to funding.

The practice, which serves around 17,000 patients, was rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commision (CQC) in 2019. Improvements were indeed made, leading to a rating of ‘good’ in 2020.

Now, BrisDoc will have to step back in and continue running the surgery at a week’s notice. 

Private provider’s mixed record

A few months ago, it became public that the GP service would be taken over by a new provider. One Medicare is a private company based in Leeds that runs 10 NHS services across the UK (but none in Bristol), including GP practices, walk-in and urgent care centres.

One Medicare has some services rated as ‘good’ by the CQC, but its most recent inspections have resulted in ‘requires improvement’ judgments. In addition, the company has run services that were placed in special measures and had to be closed down.

According to the company’s most recent accounts to the year up to September 2021, its profit after tax was £1.08m, with £200,000 paid out in dividends to shareholders and the highest paid director taking a £159,000 salary.

The company took over a GP surgery in Aberdeen in late 2022, and is about to take over another in Milton Keynes from 1 July. 

GPs have always been independent contractors since the NHS began. But since 2004 further privatisation has crept in. 

Back then, the New Labour government introduced Alternative Medical Provider Services contracts, making it easier for private companies or third-sector organisations to take over practices. Although large companies buying up chains of practices have made national headlines, privately run GP surgeries remain rare – about 3% of all practices.

This is in the context of general practice facing pressures due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining GPs, and because of increasingly complex workloads. 

Since finding out about the Charlotte Keel Medical Practice takeover, Bristol NHS campaigners have been trying to get answers about what procedures were followed and whether patients were consulted. 

On 9 June, just three weeks before the contract was going to change hands, Shane Devlin, the CEO of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (BNSSG ICB), told campaigners that the decision to award the contract was made in March. 

This came after the ICB published an invitation to tender for the eight-year contract with a potential two-year extension after having tested market interest earlier in the year. Bids for the contract were verified by the NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit and then evaluated by experts and moderation panels. 

Question marks over decision to abandon

Devlin added that each bid was evaluated against quality, financial and social value criteria, and scored individually by evaluators. But he said he couldn’t provide more details on the strength of bids due to confidentiality. He did not disclose either that the new contract was about to be abandoned and the process started all over again. 

A spokesperson for BNSSG ICB said: “We have made the decision to abandon the current procurement process for the provision of primary care medical services at Charlotte Keel Medical Practice.

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

“This means services will not be transferring to One Medicare and will for the time being remain with current provider BrisDoc. We would like to assure all patients at the practice that services will continue as usual.

“We will be undertaking a review and will then start a new procurement process for this practice in the near future.”

The Cable asked why the ICB had decided to go back to the drawing board at such a late stage, and what the timeline would be for finding a long-term provider, but it did not provide an answer. 

Ron Mendel, from campaign group Protect Our NHS, welcomed the decision not to go ahead with awarding the contract to a private firm. 

“We expect that the ICB will take every possible step to engage with the patients and especially the Patient Participation Group at Charlotte Keel practice in any future round of procurement for GP services,” Mendel told the Cable.

“We feel it is essential that in the assessment of any future bids to provide GP services that financial criteria are not prioritised at the expense of  quality so that the patients at Charlotte Keel receive the primary care they need and deserve.”

A spokesperson for One Medicare said the ICB had made the decision “following robust due diligence completed in partnership with ourselves”.

“We would like to thank the ICB and all the staff at Charlotte Keel Medical Practice for all their efforts since the award,” they said. “Patients at the practice will be assured that the service will continue as usual.”

If you have further information relating to this story, please contact Matty Edwards in confidence:

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Whistleblowers reveal institutional racism at local NHS trust

A Cable investigation spanning months has uncovered that complaints of institutional racism at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust went unheard, despite promises from management to tackle the issue.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with BBC journalist Lucy Proctor on mad cows, Covid and conspiracy theories

Thirty years ago, BSE was spreading across the UK while the government insisted beef was safe. Neil asks Lucy, producer of The Cows are Mad podcast, about the scandal – and how conspiracy theories have thrived as trust in the establishment has nosedived.

Scotland will open the UK’s first safer drug consumption facility – Bristol should be next

Glasgow, where the UK’s drug death crisis is worst, has overcome opposition from Westminster to open a potentially life-saving overdose prevention centre. What does this mean for other cities wanting to tackle drug-related harms?

Deal to reopen crucial St Paul’s dentists could be ‘sorted soon’, campaigners say

Hopeful messages emerge at community event hosted by campaigners, with dental care provider in detailed contract discussions with local health bosses that could see services return.

How local ‘health hubs’ could encourage more women to get checked for breast cancer

Bristol breast cancer rates are 16% higher than the national average, and women from deprived areas are less likely to attend appointments. We asked women about the impact better community-based services could make.

The gloves are on: the boxing charity helping young people bounce back

Photo essay: Empire Fighting Chance equips some of Bristol’s most marginalised young people with tools for survival and success

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning