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GPs axe remote referral gateway run by private firm

GP commissioners in Manchester have stopped outsourcing referral management to a private firm based hundreds of miles away after admitting it was too expensive.

Manchester clinical commissioning groups have opted to bring the city's referral management service in house after concerns that the centre run by private provider Harmoni in Southampton cost too much and did not have enough ‘local knowledge' of Manchester services.

Pulse revealed last year that the referral gateway had been outsourced, with administrators based 250 miles away flagging up concerns for review by a team of GPSIs back in Manchester. The Harmoni contract had originally been due to expire in September 2011 but was extended while the three Manchester CCGs decided how to restructure referral management.

The referral gateway will be replaced with a new booking service next month, with a triage team of local GPs.

Dr John Hughes, secretary of Manchester LMC and a board member on North Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘It was expensive outsourcing it and there were some minor issues regarding a lack of knowledge of local schemes and tier two services. The majority of local GPs are happy to have it coming back in-house and have local people involved in running it.'

An NHS Manchester spokesperson said the decision was based on cost and also ‘a desire to employ local people' and ‘helping the local economy during these difficult times'.

No termination payments were made to Harmoni, the PCT said. Harmoni declined to comment.

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