Local control of Cornish out of hours ruled out as Serco looks to subcontract

Cornwall LMC has ruled out a return to local control of the county's out-of-hours care, after private provider Serco confirmed it was looking to subcontract the service.

Serco: bid to subcontract part of out-of-hours deal in Cornwall

Devon Doctors, a GP-led social enterprise set up to provide out-of-hours care, confirmed to the BBC that it was in ‘early stage talks’ with Serco on running the service.

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

But chair of Cornwall and Isles Of Scilly LMC, Dr Peter Merrin, told GP that Devon Doctors was better placed to take over than local GPs. Serco had had ‘well publicised problems with regard to evidencing the quality of that service’, he said.

‘It has been rumoured for some time that Serco were looking for partner organisations to help deliver OOH in Cornwall but 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.’

Dr Merrin said local GPs were already integrated with Serco’s operation as they provided a substantial part of the service.

‘However, most GPs are struggling to cope with the workload "in-hours" 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 outsourcing 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.

Dr Louis Warren, Serco’s director for the service in Cornwall, said: ‘We have been working with our NHS customer, Kernow CCG, to improve the integration of our service with other providers of unscheduled healthcare in the region.

‘The NHS is considering a number of options to achieve this, including the possibility of the clinical elements of Serco’s service being delivered by a suitable specialist subcontractor of the necessary quality, capability and experience. At this stage no decision has been made. If such an arrangement were to be put in place, Serco would continue to be responsible and accountable to Kernow CCG for provision of the service.’

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

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

GP appointment

General practice delivered 342m appointments in 2022 - and lost nearly 500 GPs

General practice in England delivered around 342m appointments in total in 2022 with...

NHS sign

Local GPs unite to take over two practices run by hospital trust

GPs in Swindon have come together to take over two practices that had spent more...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Why are junior doctors preparing to strike?

Talking General Practice speaks to BMA GP trainee committee chair Dr David Smith...

Money

Practices face losing out on QOF income amid soaring demand

GP practices risk losing out on QOF income this year because sky-high demand for...

Nurse giving older man a COVID-19 vaccine

JCVI recommends targeted COVID-19 vaccination programme in 2023

People at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered a booster vaccination...

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay leaving number 10 Downing Street

Government sets out plans for 'major conditions' health strategy

The government is to set out a strategy to tackle six 'major' health conditions in...