Cornwall's GP out of hours contract is to be put out to tender again after the body responsible for commissioning the service, NHS Kernow, decided not to progress with an interim solution.

NHS Kernow, the clinical commissioning group for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, announced recently that a plan to develop an interim out-of-hours service with an alliance of local providers was not viable.

It follows the contract with existing providers Serco being terminated by mutual agreement, 16 months early.

Dr Iain Chorlton, a member of NHS Kernow’s Governing Body and a GP in Gunnislake, said: “Tendering for services provides an opportunity to improve service quality, patient outcomes and value for money.

“Serco is currently performing well and we intend to commission a service that builds on that good work. The out-of-hours service for Cornwall will be an important part of our ambition to create community services that work together for the benefit of local people.

“We will be involving local clinicians and patient representatives in our process, and will announce the new provider early next year.”

The move has been greeted with dismay by some health campaigners.

West Cornwall Health Watch said: "We are disappointed to learn that, again, Cornwall's Out Of Hours GP provision is to be put out to tender. We had really thought that the early termination of Serco's contract and the many problems experienced with this private company, would have given NHS Kernow the opportunity to 'reclaim' the service, enabling patients to have access to their own local GP practices with seamless care.

"When you consider that most of the week is actually 'out of hours', it makes much more sense to strive to have access to the same teams of doctors at evenings and weekends as during the working week. It is also clear that patients prefer not to be passed from one organisation to another once the evening or weekend arrives.

"We are very apprehensive about another tendering exercise which will be costly and may lead to a repeat of the SERCO experience. Cornwall really does not need another liaison with a private company.

"There are enough NHS providers of care already, with GPs, the ambulance service, community services and the acute hospitals' trust.

"We can only hope that, somehow, our local GPs will be able to put together an integrated service with the providers already in place, and which will meet their patients' needs and provide continuity of care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."