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Controversial Out of Hours Health Service to Change

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11:32am 13th December 2013
(Updated 11:32am 13th December 2013)

Cornwall's out of hours health service is being cut short.

Private company Serco is pulling out more than a year early.

It has had a history of problems - from staff shortages to fiddled figures.

Now it says the service doesn't fit with its "future healthcare strategy" and will be replaced in May 2015.

It is one of two contracts it is pulling out of, while it has failed to meet profit targets on a third. The combined cost is £17m, with the end of the Cornish contract thought to make up around £5m of that.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange Serco said: "The financial results for the year to 31 December 2013 will include revenues of approximately £7m and an Adjusted operating loss of £2m in relation to this contract."

Health bosses have told Pirate FM that Serco is paying its way out of the contract, but the total they will receive amounts to less than £5m. They declined to reveal the precise figure.

NHS Kernow does not know what will replace the service and is not ruling out using another private contractor, despite a string of problems with the current contract.

Although Serco is now meeting targets it has been savaged for its performance in the past, including by the powerful Public Accounts Committee.

Earlier this year Pirate FM reported how the company had been speaking to GPs in Devon about taking over the service.

Andrew Abbott, Director of Operations for NHS Kernow, said: "Serco is currently providing a good service and performing well against the national quality requirements. Feedback from patients is also very positive.

"However we have been reviewing our whole urgent care system and we believe there is an opportunity for a new way to deliver this service. We have reached a mutual agreement with Serco to end the contract 17 months early in order to provide us with an opportunity to redesign out-of-hours emergency care sooner.

"Serco will continue to deliver the service which has been improving steadily in recent months."

Dr Louis Warren, Serco's Director of Services in Cornwall, said: "Serco has agreed with NHS Kernow to bring forward the end of its contract for GP out-of-hours services in Cornwall to May 2015. For Kernow, this decision will enable a transition to a new model of integrated, unscheduled care earlier than if the contract period was unchanged, which will benefit the people of Cornwall in times of increased healthcare demand.

"For Serco, delivering Out of Hours care does not fit with our future healthcare strategy which will concentrate on other areas of the market. As is well known, in the past Serco has experienced a number of operational challenges and there has also been a significant increase in demand for the service.

"Where we have made mistakes we have learned from them and we will continue to learn from them. For some time now the contract has been providing a high quality service that meets all of the national quality requirements and NHS Kernow recognises the improvements we have delivered in the last twelve months. 

"I am very proud of the work that our people do day in, day out and we are committed to continuing to delivering this high standard of care for the remainder of the contract term." 

11:32am 13th December 2013

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