Posts Tagged ‘Out-of-hours Service’

From 2007: SERCO’s Appalling Mismanagement of GP Services in Cornwall

April 8, 2014

In my last post I put up a piece from Private Eye in 2012 about how SERCO was shedding 140 NHS community hospital jobs in Suffolk after they had been awarded the contract to run it. The Eye’s article stated that the loss of jobs was the same policy that SERCO had followed when it took over the GP’s out-of-hours service in Cornwall. This is an article from the Eye’s issue for 30th March – 12th April 2007, which describes the appalling low quality of service provided by the company after it was awarded the contract, beating a rival bid from a doctors’ not-for-profit co-operative that already ran the service efficiently.

Out-Of-Hours GPS

Counting the Cost

Patients in Cornwall are getting increasingly sick of the county’s shoddy privately run out-of-hours GP service.

Serco’s Kernow Urgent Care Service (KUCS) has been in charge for the past year, but has consistently failed to meet targets despite shipping doctors in from Eastern Europe because not enough local GPs would work for them. Serco replaced the not-for-profit GPs’ co-operative, KernowDoc last April, after bidding to run the service for £7.5m – £2.5m less than KernowDoc. The local patients’ forum and the paramedics’ union have called for the job to be handed over to the South Western Ambulance Trust, which already runs an effective service in Dorset and Somerset.

In a recent parliamentary debate, Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor said it was clear that KUCS was “unfit for purpose”. At one point in December it was failing to answer one in five of all the calls it received. The Western Morning News reported last November that only five out of 49 monthly targets had been met in the seven months KUCS had been in charge. Dozens of patients have reported horror stories of having to wait hours for urgent treatment or doctors making serious errors.

“I do not recall receiving a complaint about KernowDoc for years,” said Taylor, “but now [KUCS]is a major part of my casework.” The MP said that at a meeting in February, Serco had admitted to problems but said it saw them as part of a learning curve. Taylor asked health minister Andy Burnham whether it was “remotely defensible” that the government’s drive to use the private sector in the NHS should subject patients to,, and put them at risk from, such an appalling learning curve.”

In reply, Burnham said the service provided by KernowDoc had been put out to tender because the Cornwall Primary Care Trust, er, “could not be sure that the service gave good value for money to the people of the county.”

They know now, of course. A not-for-profit service run by doctors willing to put in extra hours to help patients is – shockingly – better for patients than a cut-price service with agency staff.

The contract has another two years to run, but the Cornwall Primary Care Tr4ust has announced that it is reviewing the situation, telling the Eye that terminating the contract would be considered as “a last resort”.

Yes, I realise that at the time the article was written, Labour were in power. This doesn’t alter my point one little bit. New Labour pursued Neoliberal economic policies, including the partial privatisation of the NHS. This policy is being followed and massively extended by the Tories. It should be stopped. Stories like the above show how damaging private management of the NHS, driven by profit, is.