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RCGP chair at centre of row over urgent care contract

Exclusive RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada has found herself at the centre of a fierce row over the provision of local out-of-hours services, after GPs and patients launched a campaign to block the takeover of an urgent care centre by the group of practices she jointly runs, the Hurley Group.

The move, which will see the Hurley Group run the urgent care centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich, south London, for the next three years, has sparked opposition from local practices who warn it will fragment services and damage continuity of care.

Opponents to the tendering decision by NHS South East London claim patients have not been adequately consulted, and warn it will threaten the viability of current provider GRABADOC – which also runs local out-of-hours services and is staffed by local GPs.

GPs and patients have tabled a petition against the changes and are writing to their local MP to outline their opposition.

The Hurley Group, where Dr Gerada is one of four senior partners, runs 15 practices and walk-in centres across London, and is due to take over the urgent care centre on 1 December.

Dr David Wheeler, a GP in Greenwich who works out-of-hours shifts for GRABADOC, said there was a ‘feeling of dismay’ among local GPs at the decision.

‘GRABADOC’s best chance to survive locally is to run the urgent care centre and integrate that with 111. There is a potential fragmentation there,’ he said.

‘It’s a paradox the chair of the college is all for collaboration and federating, but is also a partner at the Hurley Group, which is swooping in and taking over in areas where it normally has no business.’

Diane Simes, business manager at the Lakeside Medical Practice, Thamesmead, added: ‘We’re really disappointed. The group who are doing it now are local GPs who know the patients and the area. They are the out-of-hours provider so there is some degree of continuity. We don’t think patients’ views were taken into consideration.’

Dr Gerada told Pulse she did not comment on Hurley Group matters, but Dr Murray Ellender, a GP and senior partner at the Hurley Group, said: ‘The Hurley Group is an NHS Partnership, and is exclusively led by GPs, so quite understands the importance of ensuring service continuity for patients. We will be up and running in time for a 1 December start, ensuring service continuity for local patients.’

A spokesperson for NHS South East London said: ‘Continuing to provide the very best services possible for patients is paramount in all decisions on how local health services are provided.’


ASK GERADA: RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada will answer your questions live on our website on 24 November. Logon between 2pm and 3pm to quiz Dr Gerada – or submit your queries in advance here.