GPs urge Hackney residents to demand a “transparently-run” out of hours doctor service

Doctors from Hackney are urging residents to attend a consultation on Wednesday to have a say about the kind of out of hours (OOH) GP service they want to see in the borough.

GPs and many patients in Hackney are very concerned about the services provided by private company Harmoni, which currently runs the OOH service.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) ruled Harmoni was not providing safe levels of doctor cover for some of the shifts it was being paid to deliver, when it inspected in March.

Locals GPs had expected to take over the OOH service on April 1 when Harmoni’s contract ended, through the City and Hackney Urgent Healthcare Social Enterprise (CHUHSE).

However just seven weeks before CHUHSE was due to go live the Primary Care Trust (PCT) announced it would extend the contract for another nine months with Harmoni.

When the Gazette contacted the NHS last month a spokesman said it would not be fair to get anyone who had worked on the PCT to comment on the decision, because the organisation ceased to exist on April 1 when the Coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act came into force.

Dr Coral Jones said: “The reasons the PCT cited were to do with “safety and avoidance of risk”.

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“But they were not talking about patient risk or safety, but instead safety from risk of legal threat if the contract is given to local GPs who had worked up a full business case, rather than be put out to tender where private companies can bid as well.”

She continued: “CHUHSE has called this meeting to consult with patients and patients’ organisations so that their bid reflects what people in City and Hackney want from their local OOH service.”

The Commissioning body, the City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which came into existence on April 1 as part of the Act, has said it is committed to provide health services which best meet the needs of the local community.

Bronwen Handyside from the campaign group Hackney Coalition to Save the NHS said: “This consultation meeting called by our local doctors gives City and Hackney patients the ideal opportunity to tell them what kind of GP OOH service we need - not-for-profit, locally provided, transparently-run with staffing levels not hidden behind a veil of “commercial confidentiality”, and fully accountable to the local community.”

A spokesman for Harmoni said it was extremely difficult for all OOH providers across the country to recruit doctors.

He contiued “On rare occasions, a GP is, at the very last moment, unable to attend a shift to which he or she had committed, as happened at Homerton on Easter Sunday.

“Patients needing to see a GP during that time were instead offered an appointment with a GP at our Haringey base, less than two miles away.

“This was achieved without any adverse impact on patient care.”

The meeting takes place on Wednesday July 10 from 7.30 pm to 9.15pm at St John at Hackney church in Lower Clapton Road.