Serco GP service in Cornwall rejects accusations

Serco vehicle
Image caption Nearly 200 doctors work for Serco's out-of-hours service

Serco, which runs Cornwall's out-of-hours GP service, has rejected claims of a substandard service.

A Guardian report said a nurse calling in for a repeat prescription for a patient waited just under six hours for a clinician to call them back.

The report also said an emergency visit was outside the required 60 minutes.

Serco said there was no danger of drugs running out for the terminally ill patient and the emergency was attended in 50 minutes.

Sources told the newspaper that during the four-day jubilee weekend, the service was so understaffed that large delays built up in dealing with patients.

In one case, a nurse calling in for a repeat prescription on behalf of a terminally ill patient waited just under six hours for a clinician to call them back.

'Increased staffing'

By the time the doctor on duty returned the call, the patient had died, the newspaper reported.

Jeremy Mawer, medical director at Serco said: "Sadly the patient died, but this was certainly not contributed to by the delay in returning the telephone call.

"They did not run out of drugs at any point and there was no danger of this happening."

In another incident, it was claimed that a doctor was nine minutes over the one hour expected for answering an emergency home visit.

Mr Mawer said a doctor was on the scene 50 minutes after receipt of the call.

"I have authenticated this by checking the Data Tracking system which shows the car was on scene in the stated location for almost one hour from the time stated. This allegation is completely incorrect."

Paul Forden, managing director of clinical health at Serco said: "Serco increased staffing levels for the Jubilee weekend by over 18% compared with a normal 4-day weekend to cover the anticipated increase in calls.

"One hundred percent of 'urgent' calls and visits were dealt with within the required time frames. We remain fully committed to providing the best possible care for patients."

The company has provided an out-of-hours GP service in Cornwall since 2006 and has a team of more than 180 doctors, 50 other clinicians and about 140 support staff.

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