GP out-of-hours bid blocked as private provider extends deal

A GP-led social enterprise in London has lost out in a bid to take back responsibility for out-of-hours services from a private provider.

Dr Deborah Colvin: anger at refusal to allow GPs to bid for out-of-hours service
Dr Deborah Colvin: anger at refusal to allow GPs to bid for out-of-hours service

GPs founded the not-for-profit City and Hackney Urgent Healthcare Social Enterprise to bid for out-of-hours services in the area. Current provider Harmoni's contract with NHS City and Hackney was due to end in March 2013.

However, NHS North East London and City PCT cluster, which is responsible for NHS City and Hackney, decided last week to extend the deal with Harmoni. GPs will now be unable to bid for the service for a further nine months.

NHS North East London and the City said the decision was made because a procurement process had to be set up before the PCT could make changes to the local out-of-hours service.

A PCT spokesman said: ‘The procurement process will be led by City and Hackney CCG.

‘To allow the CCG time to complete this process, the PCT board has decided to extend the contract with the current provider past the 31 March date when the current contract is due to end.’

Around 80% of local GPs had joined the social enterprise, and a large proportion had been prepared to take on out-of-hours work, according to City and Hackney LMC chairwoman Dr Deborah Colvin.

Dr Colvin said she was extremely angry at the PCT cluster’s decision to delay the procurement of the service.

She said: ‘The whole point of the social enterprise was that it would be run by local GPs who know the area and would provide a good service to patients.’

Dr Colvin said that a service run by local GPs who 'know the patients' could prove more popular with patients and help reduce A&E visits.

Harmoni’s London operations director Faye Justice said: ‘Far from there being an increased number of referrals to A&E from the City and Hackney area out-of-hours service, the number is actually falling, from 3% of callers to the service in March 2012 to just 1% in December 2012.

‘The volume of calls in City and Hackney has seen a very small reduction (5%) during the past year but this is due to a change in the local district nursing service which was taken back in-house by the district nursing team at the end of January 2011.'

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