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GP co-op takes over out-of-hours for 300,000 patients after provider collapse

Exclusive A GP-run out-of-hours and urgent care cooperative has agreed to take on an extra 270,000 patients with less than a week’s notice.

This comes after urgent care provider Primecare announced at the end of November that it would be withdrawing from the market and terminating all of its out-of-hours contracts at short notice.

The company provided out-of-hours services on behalf of a number of Birmingham and West Midlands CCGs and was also directly contracted to provide out-of-hours services on behalf of around 20 Birmingham-based GP practices.

As of this weekend, GP-owned out-of-hours cooperative Badger has taken on the out-of-hours services contract for NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, and 12 of the independently contracting practices.

Including five practices which have given up their individual contracts and joined the CCG contract, this totals 41 practices with a joint 270,000 patients.

Badger, which is jointly owned by 90 GP practices local to the area, previously covers out of hours for 187 practices, with 1.1m patients in total.

Medical director Dr Fay Wilson told Pulse that the decision to add hundreds of thousands of patients just before Christmas would take a toll but that local GPs had seen no other way forward.

She said: ‘Altogether we are taking on 270,000 extra patients… and that’s right before Christmas. We don’t have any additional clinical workforce to do it, you can’t magic them…

‘Christmas is always slaughter, and the way the system works now, people do not expect us to be an urgent care service, they expect an immediate care service.’

She added: ‘But if we didn’t take these practices on, where else would they get cover? There are very few providers now.’

As previously reported, Primecare gave GP practices just 10 days’ notice that they would be terminating services.

According to Dr Wilson, this left some practice managers deciding to personally pay the deposit to join Badger as their GP partners were away and ‘there was no one to authorise payments’.

And she said that while Badger will take on these out-of-hours contracts, patients may still be affected.

Dr Wilson said: ‘There are going to be knock-on effects, especially on NHS 111 because Primecare provide a lot of the GP telephone conversation for that.

‘There aren’t any extra doctors, Primecare’s doctors are scattered all over the country, and they are just going to disappear into a national provider or their local areas.’

She added: ‘The difference between us [Badger] and a commercial is that we are here, come rain or shine. And even if we did go bankrupt, the GPs are still here, in the community.’

NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG chief executive Paul Jennings told Pulse: ‘Badger Group have confirmed that they are able to manage the out-of-hours services for these practices.

‘Patient access to GP out-of-hours services should not be affected by the transfer of these services.’