A contract for a private firm to run Cornwall’s controversial out-of-hours GP service will end 17 months early, it has been announced.
NHS Kernow, the GP led commissioning group, has today reached mutual agreement with Serco to end the current contract at the end of May 2015.
Andrew Abbott, Director of Operations for NHS Kernow, said the agreement with the huge multinational firm was reached as part of a wider review.
“Serco is currently providing a good service and performing well against the national quality requirements,” he said.
“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.”
The out-of-hours GP contract is the only one of its type held by Serco, which provides a wide range of other services in the NHS.
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.
“For some time now the contract has been providing a high quality service that meets all of the national quality requirements and NHS Kernow recognises the improvements we have delivered in the last twelve months.
“I am very proud of the work that our people do day in, day out and we are 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 have been advised to continue to use it as part of the range of services available out of hours.
In October, proposals which could have seen Devon’s and Cornwall’s out-of-hours GP services forming closer working ties were dropped.
Devon Doctors, the co-operative which runs the service in the county, and Serco, the private firm which runs it in Cornwall, had been in talks about linking up.
Earlier this year, the powerful Public Accounts Committee of MPs delivered a scathing verdict on the Serco operation accusing it of “bullying” staff and offering a “sub-standard” service to patients.