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'Mutual agreement' ends much maligned Serco out-of-hours GP contract early
Updated 12:51pm Friday 13th December 2013 in News
The company savaged over the out-of-hours GP service in Cornwall has left the contract early.
NHS Kernow, the clinical commissioner for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, says it has reached "mutual agreement" with Serco to end the current out-of-hours contract at the end of May 2015.
Investigations revealed it had falsified performance data when reporting to the local NHS trust so that it appeared to meet targets. Whistleblowers also raised the alarm over safety.
A parliamentary accounts committee inquiry and an audit by the National Audit Office followed the revelations with the committee critical of management and the substandard service.
The role the NHS primary care trust for Cornwall was also criticized as ineffective in writing and managing the contract.
Serco is believed to be paying its way out of the contract, however what cash amount is involved has not been released.
NHS Kernow has not said what will replace the service.
Andrew Abbott, director of operations for NHS Kernow, said: "Serco is currently providing a good service and performing well against the national quality requirements. Feedback from patients is also very positive. 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 which has been improving steadily in recent months."
Dr Louis Warren, Serco’s director of services in Cornwall, said: “Serco has agreed with NHS Kernow to bring forward the end of its contract for GP out-of-hours services in Cornwall to May 2015. For Kernow, this decision will enable a transition to a new model of integrated, unscheduled care earlier than if the contract period was unchanged, which will benefit the people of Cornwall in times of increased healthcare demand.
"For Serco, delivering Out of Hours care does not fit with our future healthcare strategy which will concentrate on other areas of the market. 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."
He added Serco was "committed to continuing to delivering this high standard of care for the remainder of the contract term".
The service will be unchanged for the next 17 months and patients should continue to use it as part of the range of services available out of hours.
No information on what will hapen after this 17 months has been released by the trust.
Serco have also been in the news as they are to hand over their contracts to electronically tag criminals following fraud allegations over the way they charged the government.
The Serious Fraud Office has started a full-scale criminal investigation.
Patients needing medical advice when their doctor's surgery is closed have the following choices:
• Call NHS Direct 0845 4647 or go online www.nhs.uk for 24-hour medical advice and a symptom checker.
• Your local pharmacy can be a great source of help and advice, text 'pharmacy' to 64746 to find your nearest.
• Call Serco on 0845 2000 227 for telephone advice, a home visit or a clinic appointment.
• Try your local minor injuries unit (most are open till 8pm every day and some are open till 10pm) or the walk-in centre in Redruth, open every day till 8pm.
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