London GPs oppose PCT move to private out-of-hours service

London GPs have written to health secretary Andrew Lansley in protest at PCT plans to hire a private company to deliver out-of-hours services in the capital.

A letter signed by 170 GPs warned that plans to scrap an out-of-hours deal with GP-led not-for-profit firm Camidoc, which covers large parts of north London, is not in the best interest of patients. Private out-of-hours firm Harmoni has been lined up as a replacement.

The letter says the move would ‘significantly increase the overall cost of providing primary care services in North London’.

It says: ‘Camidoc is a not-for-profit organisation whilst the proposed provider Harmoni is a commercial organisation with the aim of making a profit for its shareholders.’

The open letter was sent by GPs working in areas covered by NHS Camden, NHS Islington, NHS Haringey and NHS City and Hackney to Andrew Lansley, as well as Mayor of London Boris Johnson and several MPs and PCT managers.

The GPs called for the proposals to transfer the out-of-hours services to Harmoni to be put on hold until a proper consultation has been carried out.  

But Dr David Lloyd, a GP and joint medical director of Harmoni, denied the move would result in higher costs and damaged patient care.

He said: ‘Our experience of providing services in the rest of London shows we provide good services that are cost-effective.

‘The quality of care won’t change at all. We are not a fly-by-night organisation. We are working very hard with local GPs to ensure the service changes are completely smooth. Patients will not see any difference.’

Meanwhile, a spokesman for NHS Camden asserted that the move was ‘in no way’ driven by a desire to save money, or by a privatisation agenda.

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