Out-of-hours doctor service in spotlight

HEALTH bosses in Suffolk should take heed of a decision by a neighbouring PCT to cut short its out-of-hours care contract, a campaigner claims.

Naomi Gornall

HEALTH bosses in Suffolk should take heed of a decision by a neighbouring PCT to cut short its out-of-hours care contract, a campaigner claims.

It has been revealed that NHS Cambridgeshire terminated its contract with out-of-hours provider, Take Care Now (TCN) nine weeks early.

The Care Quality Commission launched a probe after the death of 70-year-old David Gray, who was accidentally killed by a German doctor working his first out-of-hours shift in Britain in February last year. Dr Daniel Ubani was employed by TCN and working for NHS Cambridgeshire at the time.


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The interim report criticised TCN for failing to fill doctors' shifts and its policies for dispensing medicine.

Health chiefs in Cambridgeshire have now arranged for a local doctors' co-operative, Camdoc, to replace TCN in east Cambridgeshire and Fenland from December 1.

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The news comes just ahead of Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee meeting tomorrow, where TCN's out-of-hours service in this county is set to be examined closely.

Peter Mellor, Suffolk health campaigner, said he hoped the committee would be prepared to refer the matter to the secretary of state for health if matters did not change.

“They [NHS Cambridgeshire] have made the decision that TCN has failed to come up with the correct level of care and I think that sends a signal out to everybody else. It is something NHS Suffolk should look at.

“There is every evidence that people want a locally based organisation run by a group of local GPs.”

Bids for a new contract are currently being evaluated and will be decided next month. The new contract will start in April 2010.

Dr Jim Kennedy, medical director of TCN, said: “Despite many months of discussion with the PCT [NHS Cambridgeshire], we couldn't agree on a number of issues relating to the out-of-hours needs of patients in a rural community.

“We have been working hard to find common ground with NHS Cambridgeshire on the delivery of out-of-hours services. We won't be contesting the decision to end the contract nine weeks early.”

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