GP out-of-hours group pulls out of Serco talks

Devon's GP out-of-hours provider has pulled out of talks to take over the service in neighbouring Cornwall as a subcontractor for current provider Serco.

Serco: Devon Doctors pulls out of subcontractor talks
Serco: Devon Doctors pulls out of subcontractor talks

Serco said last week it was looking to hand over clinical elements of the out-of-hours service it runs in Cornwall to another provider.

A statement from Devon Doctors said it had now withdrawn from negotiations with Serco.

‘We remain firmly of the belief that our model of social enterprise and GP practice ownership would have resulted in an improved service in the county. Unfortunately, contractual negotiations between Serco and the commissioning body, NHS Kernow, were not successful.

‘We are disappointed that our offer of support will not be pursued. However, Devon Doctors respects the decision made by NHS Kernow and will now redouble its efforts to maintain and improve the standards of GP out-of-hours and urgent care across its home county.’

Local MP Andrew George (Liberal Democrat, West Cornwall) has said Serco should ‘hand back the keys if they can't do the job’ and called for the service to be ‘reintegrated’ with the rest of primary care by the CCG.

But chair of Cornwall and Isles Of Scilly LMC, Dr Peter Merrin, said local GPs would not be able to take over the service.

‘At present Cornish GPs have no organisational structure that can deliver that help. Our colleagues in Devon Doctors have a well organised and mature organisational structure run by GPs and are ideally placed to explore the commercial possibilities of collaborating with Serco.’

GPs were struggling to cope with the workload 'in-hours', said Dr Merrin. ‘So the thought of opting into out of hours would be unpalatable to most GPs’.

A CQC report in 2012 found Serco had failed to meet quality and safety standards. The firm failed to employ enough skilled staff to meet the needs of patients and failed to protect patients by not training all staff in safeguarding protocols and not making locum GPs aware of local protocols.

Serco said at the time that it had taken 'swift and decisive action to resolve problems with the service. This month, the company's director for its service in Cornwall, Dr Louis Warren, announced Serco was looking to improve integration with other providers through subcontracting clinical elements of the service. 

Kernow CCG’s director of operations Andrew Abbott said it was looking at ways to improve out-of-hours care and was considering suggestions from Serco.

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