Meningitis victim hits out at NHS privitisation after privately-run practice in Hackney refuses him treatment

A 76-year-old man hit out this week at the privatisation of the health service after he was refused treatment by a Hackney NHS health centre run by a private contractor for what was later diagnosed as potentially deadly meningitis.

Colin Boulter, a registered patient at the Tollgate Centre in Stamford Hill, was suffering flu-like symptoms and had gone there hoping to use its walk-in service. But he was unaware that Care UK, which runs the centre on behalf of the NHS East London and the City Trust, has an agreement not to treat more than two per cent of the practice’s registered patients each month when it is operating the walk-in service for unregistered patients.

In a letter from the centre he was told: “Unfortunately this threshold had already been reached on the day you visited.”

Care UK would not have been paid if Mr Boulter had been treated.

Mr Boulter who had gone there on March 31, was sent away without being seen by a doctor, but his condition deteriorated later that day.

His wife called an ambulance and doctors at Homerton Hospital diagnosed him with meningitis.

Mr Boulter from Riverside Close, Stamford Hill, said: “I don’t want to criticise individuals, but through buying into the private sector they could potentially have had a death on their hands.

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“It’s why I’m against privatisation, because in the last analysis Care UK’s profit came before a needy patient.

“I find it unbelievable the NHS has made an agreement with a profit-seeking business which can deny help or advice to someone who has a fast developing and potentially fatal condition, this is contrary to what has been said and written on numerous occasions by politicians, ministers and senior NHS management.

“My point is that the walk-in centre was practising under false pretences by pretending to be there for everyone, there’s nothing there to say it’s not for patients of Tollgate Lodge and someone with meningitis was left to find his way about.”

Care UK has apologised to Mr Boulter. “The team at Tollgate Lodge on that day followed normal walk-in centre procedures for the symptoms that the patient presented with,” said a Care UK spokeswoman.

Steve Gilvin, director of primary care commissioning, said walk-in services cost the NHS more than booked appointments for registered patients.

“There is a cap in place on this contract to ensure that the cost of a patient who is registered is not charged as a walk-in appointment,” he said, but added the cap should not affect whether an appointment should be offered to a patient who needs to see a doctor urgently.

The Department of Health declined to comment.

Last month the NHS held a consultation whether to scrap the walk-in centre, along with Springfield Health Centre in Stoke Newington, saying the money saved would enable 9,600 people to register with GPs at those centres and improve services to those already registered.

Many doctors supported the move, but NHS North East London and the City announced last week it will retain the walk in services “at key times.”