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Cornish doctors take over out-of-hours contract from Serco

GPs have won their bid to gain control of the out-of-hours service in Cornwall and will be taking on the contract held by Serco.

Two GP provider companies, Cornwall Health and Kernow Health, will launch the new out-of-hours service from 1 June when Serco’s contract runs out.

The news marks a success for Cornwall LMC which had led the bid for GPs to take on the service amid a number of safety concerns. GP-led social enterprise Devon Doctors, which already runs the Devon out-of-hours services, is behind Cornwall Health, while Kernow Health has been launched by Cornish GP practices as a community interest company.

The CQC issued a warning notice to Serco in 2012 after finding the Cornwall out-of-hours service failed to meet essential health and safety standards and in 2013 the Public Accounts Committee said Serco had ‘bullied’ whistleblowers who had warned it did not have sufficient staffing. However, the provider was subsequently found to have ‘steadily improved’ in a routine unannounced inspection.

Dr Iain Chorlton, NHS Kernow’s GP lead for out-of-hours, said he thought the service would improve because the local GPs ‘know first-hand what patients need, what works and what we need to do to create a joined-up health and care system’.

He added that the provider organisations have ‘invaluable insight’ because they already provide out-of-hours services in Devon.

Cornwall Health medical director and Penryn GP Dr Mike Ellis said he hoped winning the contract would mean better cooperation between out-of-hours services, primary care and other local health services.

He said: ‘It should be good news for Cornish patients and practices, as well as the urgent care services of Cornwall and Devon.’