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Christmas cover criticised

A privately-run out-of-hours

service in Cornwall has been criticised by GPs for failing to cope with demand over the Christmas period.

Many callers were unable to get through to the Kernow Urgent Care Service (KUCS), run by Serco, or faced long waits for callback.

Dr Mark McCartney, a GP in Pensilva, Cornwall, said the service had been 'unsatisfactory'.

He said: 'I was surprised the service did not gear up appropriately for what was deemed to be a busy period.'

KUCS said it doubled staff numbers during the period and had to handle an unprecedented number of calls. The service took nearly 6,000 calls from 23 to 31 December, about double average demand.

A spokesperson said the company was 'angry' at accusations it had been unprepared, but admitted there had been some problems on Christmas Eve.

He said: 'All health services were under considerable pressure over this period and the out-of-hours service worked as part of the NHS to ensure urgent health care needs were met.'

Cornwall PCT said 'unforeseen staff sickness' had led some callers to experience a delay.

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