COMMERCIAL: A private sector provider has admitted that staff working on its GP out-of-hours service in Cornwall altered performance data.

Serco has faced a string of allegations relating to the safety and quality of its service in Cornwall with one staff member telling a national newspaper it was regular practice for records to be adjusted to improve performance.

In a statement released by NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly on 20 September, the primary care trust said it had been informed by Serco that in a small number of cases computer records were changed without sufficient justification. The statement said Serco had apologised for the changes which were “unauthorised” and involved 0.2 per cent of records between January and June 2012.

The PCT confirmed 252 records were affected and said it would be carrying out an independent validation of Serco’s report.

NHS Cornwall chief executive Steve Moore said: “I was disappointed to learn that some of the data we received to measure performance was inaccurate although the number of inaccurate records was small.

“I am clear that Serco did not gain from these actions and they have issued a full apology to us.”

The announcement came as a clinical review of the service by David Colin-Thome, the former national director of primary care, was published in board papers to the PCT.

Dr Colin-Thome concluded the service had not provided “systematic unsafe care” but stopped short of giving it a completely clean bill of health.

He added: “Until all significant problems and in particular of GP staffing are rectified, I cannot say with certainty that the service will remain safe.”

Serco has recently increased the payments offered to GPs by 17 per cent - the first increase in six years - in a bid to tackle a long running recruitment problem that has frequently left the service short staffed.

Dr Colin-Thome said this reflected a national trend and predicted that, despite the pay rise, Serco would need to look to increase the number of nurses and emergency care practitioners to provide a fully staffed safe service. He also called for the commissioner to lead on the creation of an “integrated cross organisation twenty four hour urgent care system”.

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