A controversial contract for out-of-hours medical care in Cornwall will be ended earlier than expected, it has emerged today.
The contract with Serco to provide emergency care will come to an end by “mutual agreement” 17 months earlier than anticipated.
Serco has faced repeated criticism for its service provision and “operational challenges” were cited as one of the reasons for ending the contract sooner than expected.
Andrew Abbott, director of operations for NHS Kernow, said Serco was “providing a good service” and performing well against national requirements.
He said: “However we have been reviewing our whole urgent care system and we believe there is an opportunity for a new way to deliver this service.
“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.”
Serco will continue to deliver the service until the end of May 2015.
Louis Warren, Serco’s director of services in Cornwall, said out-of-hours care did not fit with its “future healthcare strategy” which would concentrate on other areas of the market.
He said: “As is well known, in the past Serco has experienced a number of operational challenges and there has also been a significant increase in demand for the service.
“Where we have made mistakes we have learned from them and we will continue to learn from them.”
Dr Warren said he was very proud of his staff’s work and committed to delivering a high standard of care for the remainder of the contract.
NHS Kernow said patients should continue to use Serco as part of the range of services available out of hours for the next 17 months.
In the summer the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a damning report on the operation of the £32 million contract.
MPs heard the service provided by Serco was "not good enough" as it had struggled to "ensure enough staff are available", "consistently failed" to meet targets and "performance (was) still falling short".
The committee was told two staff altered data on 252 occasions – revealed by an internal audit between January and June 2012 – resulting in Serco "overstating (its) performance".