Out-of-hours GP cover faces probe

AN IPSWICH-based healthcare company which provides Suffolk's out of hours care is facing investigation after a doctor accidentally gave a patient a lethal overdose of drugs.

Rebecca Lefort

AN IPSWICH-based healthcare company which provides Suffolk's out of hours GP cover is facing investigation after a doctor accidentally gave a patient a lethal overdose of drugs.

Take Care Now (TCN), which provides the service for the NHS in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, faces a probe by health watchdogs, it emerged yesterday.

It follows a number of concerns about its out-of-hours care, including the tragedy which happened in Cambridgeshire last year.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) launched the inquiry after it emerged a German doctor, Dr Daniel Ubani, who was employed by TCN, administered ten times too much painkiller to David Gray, 70.

Dr Ubani was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence in Germany for the negligence which caused Mr Gray's death. Details of the case have only just come to light.

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CQC's head of investigations and enforcement Christine Braithwaite said: “This is a deeply disturbing case and one that must be thoroughly looked into. We have to ensure that any lessons are learned.

“We are aware of a number of concerns in relation to out-of-hours care provided by Take Care Now to the NHS.

“We will be looking into these issues to ensure that the interests and safety of patients are properly safeguarded.”

The CQC said it had yet to fully determine the scope of its investigation.

David Cocks, chief executive of TCN, said: “Our response has been focused on doing everything we can to ensure such a tragedy could never happen again.

“We have and will continue to fully cooperate with the inquiries into this matter. We would, once again, like to take the opportunity to express our deepest sympathy with Mr Gray's family.”

Julian Herbert, deputy chief executive of NHS Suffolk, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear of this case and our thoughts are with the family.

“We wish to stress that this was the action of one doctor, who was suspended immediately, and it is an isolated case.

“Since this tragic event, we have kept in close contact with partners and national agencies and will cooperate with any future investigations which may result.

“Patient safety is our primary concern. All the services we commission meet high standards of quality and safety and people should have confidence in them for their urgent or routine needs.”

The future of out-of-hours care is currently the subject of a consultation in Suffolk.

TCN won the contract, worth nearly �6million, four years ago, after doctors were allowed to opt-out of providing care in the evenings and at weekends. The ambulance service and Bildeston GP practice also provide a small amount of the out-of-hours care in the county.

TCN will have to bid again to provide the service once the current consultation finishes on May 22.