Trade union leaders in Yorkshire have raised fears of "further privatisation of NHS services" in the region after a campaign group highlighted three GP practices which are majority owned by a major US healthcare company.
Lincoln Green Surgery and Harehills Corner Surgery, in Leeds, and The Flying Scotsman Health Centre in Doncaster have been identified as being operated by The Practice Group, a private provider 75 per cent owned by US-based Centene.
The NHS Support Federation, a collective of journalists and researchers investigating changes to the NHS, says the company is now branching out into other areas of community health by taking up contracts for walk in centres, as well as ophthalmology and dermatology clinics.
And it is claimed that at the same time the firm has closed down or terminated a number of primary care practices in other areas of the country.
The disclosure has prompted the Trades Union Congress in Yorkshire to issue a warning about American firms' ambitions to run NHS services.
An alleged plot to "sell off" the public health service to US corporations during a post-Brexit trade deal has been a key message of Labour's campaign for the December 12 election.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said "all the evidence" points to the NHS being on the table during trade talks with the US, despite Mr Trump's denials that is the case as he landed in the UK on Tuesday.
TUC Regional Secretary Bill Adams said: "Trump should keep his tiny hands off our NHS. It is not for sale. Big American healthcare corporations can’t wait to get their hands on our NHS.
“We’ve seen how poorly private US healthcare corporations have run our GP surgeries in other parts of the UK, and now they’re looking for a bigger slice of the pie.
“We are concerned that by taking profits out of services, it will reduce levels of provision for local communities. The NHS should be run for people, not profit.
“Ordinary people’s healthcare shouldn’t be a cash cow for super-rich executives to rake in the billions.
“Private profit has no place in Yorkshire’s NHS, and we need to use our votes to stop it.”
Most GPs are independent contractors, either running the business on their own or in partnership with others.
Over recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of large partnerships resulting in the consolidation and growth of a number of GP patient lists.
According to The Practice Group's website: "Since 2005, The Practice Group has worked with the NHS to design and deliver innovative approaches to primary care across England."
It adds: "The Practice Group has strong clinical leadership from the same GPs who founded the organisation and there is a clear focus on providing better health outcomes at lower costs. In this way, The Practice Group creates real value for the NHS and consistent and sustainable long-term care for its patients."
Centene's website says it "leverages its local strategic assets to support UK accountable care initiatives based on the blueprint outlined by the National Health Service, the publicly funded national healthcare system for England".
It adds: "We partner with local health and social commissioners on opportunities to support coordination and integration of care."
The firm told The Yorkshire Post: "As a partner of the NHS, Centene UK, through The Practice Group focusses on providing primary care across the UK and ensure we provide the best possible care for our patients. The Practice Group is regulated by the Care Quality Commission and all of the services and surgeries we provide are commissioned through the NHS."