No immediate new contractor for Cornwall out-of-hours GP services

Doctor writing and stethoscope Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Health bosses want to avoid any duplication of services

A new contractor for Cornwall's out-of-hours GP service will not be appointed immediately when current provider Serco finishes early, health bosses say.

NHS Kernow said it would have a year-long interim service in place after Serco's contract ends 17 months early, next May.

Governors said they "do not want to rush it" into another five-year deal.

The CQC criticised Serco for not meeting national standards, falsifying data and a "bullying culture".

NHS Kernow said it wanted to redesign services so they were "fit-for-purpose for many years to come".

Dr Iain Chorlton, from NHS Kernow, said commissioners were to explore different models for out-of-hours services and "now is just not the right time to commit ourselves to a contract which will tie us in for the next five years".

Image caption Serco will stop providing Cornwall's out-of-hours GP service at the end of May 2015

He said: "We fully intend to take the time to consult with the community and health workers to ensure we get the new service right.

"We do not want to rush it - we want to ensure that out-of-hours services are fit for purpose for many years to come."

Dr Chorlton, GP lead for out-of-hours services, said Serco was "performing well" and "the knowledge their staff have is important in helping us design the new service".

The interim providers were still to be chosen and cutting any duplication in service provision was one aspect being explored, he said.

Local watchdog Healthwatch Cornwall said it saw "the opportunity to redesign out-of-hours services as a step in the right direction for the people of Cornwall and a means to ensure 24/7 care is easily accessible".

In response to the criticism, Serco said it had faced a number of "operational challenges", but added it had still been providing a high-quality service.

Dr Louis Warren, of Serco, said: "The last CQC report in July 2013 confirmed that the service is meeting all the National Quality Requirements.

"Feedback from patients who use the service is outstanding and the events of 2012 do not reflect the service that the people of Cornwall have been receiving over the past year."

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