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GPs' fears and suspicion over out-of-hours deal

GPs in Cornwall have raised serious concerns over out-of-hours in the county after the contract to provide the service was won by a private provider.

A letter from Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC to West Cornwall PCT accused the new provider, Serco, and the county's trusts of causing 'needless fears and suspicion' among GPs by failing to communicate on their plans.

GPs do not know what level of cover will be provided by Serco, whether doctors will be triaging, how many cars will be used and which primary care centres will be provided.

Dr Robert Harvey, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LMC vice-chair, said 'lack of knowledge' had pushed GPs to speak out.

He said: 'It's cultivated an unfortunate atmosphere of mistrust, which is needless.'

Dr Harvey's letter to Antek Lejk, chief executive of West of Cornwall Primary Care Trust, added that many GPs had concerns over the contract going to Serco, and asked on what criteria it was chosen.

GPs who worked for Kernowdoc and transferred to Serco would also be facing an 8 per cent pay cut because its pension scheme would not be equivalent to the NHS pension, he said.

Serco is offering a 6 per cent employer's contribution, compared with 8 per cent for the NHS pension. A spokesman for Serco, which also runs out-of-hours services in Cardiff and north Oxfordshire, said staff would come across on the same contractual terms: 'Any change will not disadvantage staff but will be beneficial.'

But he added the company was looking at the differentials between pensions available to NHS staff and its own offer.

Peter Curnow, out-of-hours project lead at West Cornwall PCT, said April rotas had now gone to GPs.

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