Out of hours GP service – more public accountability needed
Commenting on the announcement that a new five year contract has been awarded to Serco to provide an out of hours GP service across Cornwall, local MP, Andrew George, expressed disappointment at the lack of public consultation.
Mr George said: “The out of hours GP service is critical to the running of health services across Cornwall. Of the168 hours in a week, over 115 of them – i.e. more than two thirds of the time – has to be covered by the out of hours service.
“After a shockingly poor start, Serco has satisfied the performance indicators to fulfil its contract. But I’m not convinced these tick box indicators pick up the full picture. There is anecdotal evidence of occasionally threadbare services, especially at weekends. Few directly employed doctors, many more of agency doctors and unfilled shifts.
“Of course, I wish Serco well. Though, like many in the health community, believe that it would have been preferable for the contract to have been granted for a three year period rather than five.
“Operating the procurement process on a budget driven rather than service provided basis may prove to be a false economy. A poorly resourced out of hours service could result in more patients admitted unnecessarily to hospital at a higher cost for the health system as a whole.
“Nevertheless, whilst the out of hours service needs to be monitored closely, the service both deserves and needs our active support and the full co-operation of day time hour GP surgeries and Health Trusts.”