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Delays to out-of-hours report on GP services raises concern

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 25, 2013

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Cornwall's new health trust says it expects to receive an independent report into the much-criticised out-of-hours GP service run by Serco this month, amid criticism from MPs it has been held back.

But the publication date remains unclear as the NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which runs health services in Cornwall, says it will need "time to reflect" first.

Private sector firm Serco has faced fierce criticism after it was discovered staff made 252 changes to NHS data over a six-month period to mask serious short-staffing. At times just one doctor was covering a night shift for the whole of Cornwall and a report by the National Audit Office watchdog in March claimed the firm "regularly had insufficient staff to fill all clinical shifts".

Last year, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) – which ran services until abolished this April – commissioned accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers to carry out a forensic audit of Serco's own report, which revealed he 252 alterations.

The review, the third major report on the out-of-hours service, was expected to be completed by March. The chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee of MPs criticised the delay at a public hearing last month. At the inquiry, Steve Moore, ex-chief executive of the PCT, said the PwC report has been "a little slower than we thought".

"I was keen to get the report in full to our board in March – that didn't happen," he went on, adding that a draft version of the executive summary had been reported back to the abolished body's board.

But Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, said she would "bet you're sitting on it" and added it is "deeply unsatisfactory" the report has not been published. Mr Moore added: "It's a very detailed audit and some of it needs to be gone through. The CCG have now taken that on."

The CCG, which is led by GPs as part of the reformed NHS, last night could not confirm whether it had seen the executive summary.

Andrew Abbott, NHS Kernow's Director of Operations, said: "In keeping with our promise to be an honest and transparent organisation, we would expect to make the report's findings public once we have had time to reflect on them, including any actions required."

MPs criticised the PCT for not carrying out further investigations into whether figures had been altered in 2011 and 2010. The Serco audit, which PwC is running the rule over, examined patient calls between January and June 2012. But staff have told the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), that the data manipulation went back four years or more"

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