Harmoni refuses to admit how many out-of-hours doctors shifts went unfilled since damning CQC report

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row. - Credit: Archant

Harmoni has refused to release figures showing how many doctors shifts have gone unfilled in the months since it was found guilty of running the out-of-hours (OOH) GP service in Hackney with so few doctors they were accused of potentially risking patient’s safety.

In May the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced it was reviewing staffing levels at Harmoni North Central London, after the company admitted there had been no doctors based at Homerton Hospital on Easter Sunday evening, despite being contracted to provide a service when GP practices are closed.

Anyone needing to see a GP that night was sent to Haringey.

The CQC report concluded “there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs” at Harmoni , which covers Islington, Hackney, Camden and Haringey.

“On occasions staff have not been available at clinics to see patients,” said the report.

“This has resulted in falls in patient satisfaction and potentially places patients at risk of not having the care and treatment they need.”

Harmoni – which was handed the OOH contract under an interim arrangement in 2010 without a formal tendering process – admitted recruiting GPs to work in its OOH service was a “challenge”, but said it had a “robust recruitment process” in place.

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Last week the Gazette asked Harmoni whether it had since managed to fill every doctor’s shift – but it refused to release the figures, directing us to submit a FOI request to the City and Hackney CCG.

“It’s not that we aren’t prepared to be transparent, but there are ways and means of obtaining that information, they are not the sort of figures we would release via a media enquiry,” said a spokesman.

“I don’t think it’s in the public interest for the public to know blow for blow how many shifts were covered across all of London.”

He continued: “There are commercial sensitivities, there’s a commissioning process which we have to provide information to, the commissioners put it out to tender and there’s certain information we wouldn’t necessarily want our rivals to see.”

GPs in Hackney spent two years drawing up plans to run OOH care under the guise of the City and Hackney Urgent Healthcare Social Enterprise (CHUHSE), but at the last minute NHS NELC allowed Harmoni to continue running the contract for another nine months while they put it out to tender.

A decision on who will be awarded the contract will be made today in a closed session of the City and Hackney CCG, which should be announced within 10 days.

The CCG would not confirm who has bid for the service.

In a statement Harmoni said all national quality requirements (NQRs) for the Hackney and City out-of-hours service were met last month, and that in the last five months all face-to-face targets and “all but a very small number” of the other NQRs were met.

“Strong achievement against NQRs demonstrates that our robust recruitment initiatives are working and that the service is properly staffed at all levels,” they said.