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LMC forms county-wide provider company and plans bid for out-of-hours contract

GPs in Cornwall have agreed to form a county-wide provider company which will bid to take over out-of-hours cover when Serco ceases to provide the service next year.

Cornwall LMC said it has received ‘unanimous support’ from GPs for its plans, which will see practices able to collectively bid for contracts covering the county’s half a million patients.

Practices have also agreed to bid collectively to provide the out-of-hours service currently delivered by the private company Serco when its contract ends in May 2015.

In 2012 the Serco service was hit with a CQC warning notice after the regulator ruled the firm had failed to meet essential health and safety standards, and concerns were also voiced after it emerged that on one occasion just one GP was left covering more than 500,000 people after another GP was taken ill. However a routine unannounced inspection last year found the provider’s performance against the National Quality Requirements had ‘steadily improved’ and it met all the standards it was inspected on.

Cornwall LMC chair Dr Peter Merrin said LMC members felt ‘strongly’ that the out-of-hours service should be run by local GPs.

He told Pulse: ‘The GPs don’t want to do [out-of-hours], but they want control of it.’

‘We could be more responsive in regard to what other demands [are] placed on general practice. So organisationally, they would be able to respond better to potential future demands to extend the working day, for instance.’

In the LMC’s January newsletter, Dr Merrin wrote: ‘I think being in control of out-of-hours provides us as GPs with a great opportunity to regain control of our professional destiny.’

Dawn Molenkamp, the LMC’s executive manager, told Pulse that meetings between practices to discuss the plans represented a ‘statement of intent’. She said the LMC was seeking legal advice on how to best establish a provider company before forming a working group.

The move comes after GPs won a £6.4m contract to take back responsibility for out-of-hours care in east London last year, replacing another private company, Harmoni, which had been running the service.