Cornish GPs take back out-of-hours from Serco

GPs in Cornwall have taken back control of the out-of-hours service after private provider Serco dropped out following criticism.

Home visit: GP-out-of-hours deal for Cornwall
Home visit: GP-out-of-hours deal for Cornwall

Following a competitive tender process a new consortium, Cornwall Health, led by Devon Doctors and Kernow Health, will take over the service from 1 June 2015 when Serco’s contract finishes.

Devon Doctors is a GP-led social enterprise that provides services in the neighbouring county, while Kernow Health is a community interest company owned by Cornish practices.

Cornwall Health and Devon Doctors’ medical director, GP Dr Mike Ellis, said: ‘We are pleased to be given the opportunity to work with the practices of Cornwall to provide this service. We believe that it will enable us to offer more integrated care, uniting out-of-hours with primary care and other local health services. It should be good news for Cornish patients and practices, as well as the urgent care services of Cornwall and Devon.’

GP out-of-hours recruitment

Dr Ellis said there had been a particular problem in recruiting doctors to work in out-of-hours services in Cornwall.

‘Choosing a provider in which Cornwall’s GP’s have a major stake and, with that in mind, are committed to supporting should go a long way towards mitigating against that,' he said. ‘Clearly, there is still much work to be done before any contracts can be signed but we are thrilled that NHS Kernow has recognised our bid, for this tender offers a wonderful opportunity to deliver the safe and sustainable out-of-hours system the people of Cornwall demand and deserve.'

Kernow CCG’s out-of-hours GP lead Dr Iain Chorlton said: ‘We are delighted that a team of doctors and nurses will provide Cornwall’s new out-of-hours’ service. They know first-hand what patients need, what works and what we need to do to create a joined-up health and care system. Invaluable insight of delivering a similar service in Devon will also help strengthen our partnership in the north and east of the county.

'This new service will provide high quality, joined-up, safe and sustainable medical cover and help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, re-admissions and attendance at the emergency department, which is critical to getting the system back on track.'

In 2012 a CQC report found the Serco service failed to meet quality and safety standards after patients raised concerns.

CQC inspection

A CQC inspection revealed that seven GPs were working for up to 13 hours a day, some from 8am until 7pm and others from 7pm until 8am. The CQC found that the shortage of doctors had resulted in an increased number of complaints to the PCT regarding the service.

The report also found that Serco had failed to protect patients by not training all staff in safeguarding protocols and not making locum GPs aware of local protocols. When the CQC asked staff members about statutory staff training, they were told it was a bit ‘hit and miss’.

In addition to these concerns, Serco also failed to put an effective system in place to monitor the quality of service that patients received.

Serco's contract director for the service, Stephanie Gray-Roberts, told the BBC the organisation had decided not to rebid.

'For some time now we have been delivering a high quality service that meets all of our contractual obligations and the service consistently achieves an independently assessed patient satisfaction score of 95% or above,' she said.

‘We will work closely with NHS Kernow and Cornwall Health to ensure a safe and effective transition.’

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