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Emergency Doctors Service Criticised

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7:01am 18th July 2012

There are not enough emergency doctors covering Cornwall.

A report warns some are having to work thirteen hour shifts overnight while other Serco staff have not had proper training.

Inspectors say patients are not being properly protected from the risk of abuse either.

Pirate FM has learnt they have given bosses fourteen days to fix problems.

The Care Quality Commission launched a string of unannounced visits, speaking to staff, patients and former Serco workers who had asked to pass on information anonymously.

In a report published on Wednesday the watchdog warns that the private company must take immediate action to improve care in four key areas.

They include ensuring that staff are properly trained to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse, bringing in enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet patients needs and having an effective system to monitor the quality of the service. All four areas are legal requirements.

During the investigation inspectors found one patient who had waited at a clinic for 90 minutes while another one gave up waiting for a home visit and dialled 999.

Ian Biggs, deputy director of CQC in the South said, "At least half a million people depend on this service, so it is vital that it is properly staffed with properly qualified GPs who are available when people need them.

“At times, Serco has not had enough doctors on duty and it is hardly surprising that people have complained. Asking GPs and their drivers to work such long hours should be a last resort.

“However we note that the service has already recruited more GPs and has introduced a new triage system to cope more effectively with calls."

Paul Forden, Managing Director of Serco's Clinical Services, said, "We acknowledge that at the time of the CQC visit earlier this year, we did not meet all aspects of four standards against which we were being audited.  One area was found to be of 'minor' concern and three to be of 'moderate' concern.  

"We can confirm that we have already implemented actions to ensure that three of the four areas have made progress and we consider that we have achieved the required standards.  On the fourth recommendation on training we are 92% compliant today and will fully meet the requirement within the next month.

"Patient safety and wellbeing is our first priority. We have taken and will continue to take any criticisms extremely seriously and we have fully cooperated with the CQC in their investigation.  We are confident that we will be able to fully satisfy the CQC that we are meeting all of the standards required when they next visit the service."

The investigation also concluded that it was "possible" the service's performance had been overstated because managers "routinely" altered logs which suggested failures if the entry was incorrect. Inspectors found two examples of calls that had been wrongly classified as achieved.

7:01am 18th July 2012

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