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Cornwall health services must have redesign after Serco exit

By WMNlynbarton  |  Posted: December 17, 2013

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Health services need shot in the arm, says MP

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An MP has called for a fundamental redesign of urgent care services in Cornwall after it was announced the private firm running out-of-hours GP service would exit their contract early.

NHS Kernow, the GP-led commissioning group, said last week it reached mutual agreement with Serco to end the current contract at the end of May 2015 - 17 months earlier than scheduled.

St Ives MP Andrew George, who has been a strident critic of the multi-national firm’s service in Cornwall, said it was a golden opportunity to examine urgent care services with an emphasis on in-house NHS care.

He said that people mattered more than making money.

“Health services will always be put at risk if profit is put before patient interests,” he said.

“When the last Labour Government started down the road of privatisation, tendering for health services, there was always a risk that this kind of situation would arise.

“Now we have the opportunity to put patients before profit and to bring services together so that all unplanned medical needs can be better integrated; from extreme blue light emergencies to health concerns which need clinical oversight before the GP surgery opens the following day.”

Andrew Abbott, director of operations for NHS Kernow, said the agreement with the multinational company was reached as part of a wider review.

However, Serco has never been too far from the news since winning the service for out-of-hours care in December 2005 and taking it out of the hands of Kernowdoc, a co-operative of Cornish GPs.

Earlier this year, Serco urged NHS patients not to “lose confidence” in the GP out-of-hours service – and announced it has handed back an £85,000 bonus.

The action came after ”goodwill gesture” came after a powerful committee of MPs has launched a withering attack, accusing the firm of “bullying” staff and offering a “substandard” service to patients.

It had emerged that NHS data had been altered 252 times and staff had blown the whistle on the situation which they feared was to mask under performance.

Mr George, who reported Serco to the health regulator the Care Quality Commission, had previously called on NHS Kernow to end the contract with Serco.

He said that he believed that out-of-hours GP services would be better integrated with in-hours GP surgeries, urgent care services, NHS 111, minor injuries units and the emergency department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital when the contract is taken back by the NHS.

The CQC found that the company had failed to meet a number of standards and falsified records.

Mr Abbot said NHS Kernow, which took over from the now defunct primary care trust on April 1 this year, was reviewing the system.

“We have reached a mutual agreement with Serco to end the contract 17 months early in order to provide us with an opportunity to redesign out-of-hours emergency care sooner.”

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