• GP out-of-hours provider Primecare told GPs in Birmingham it will cease all operations by December, according to leaked letter
  • Practices told to make urgent contact with CCGs to discuss contingency plans
  • Thousands of patients potentially left without out-of-hours services 

Thousands of patients could be left without GP out of hours services after a cash-strapped private provider said it would cease operations by the end of the month.

Primecare, a division of troubled social care provider Allied Healthcare, has told GPs to “make urgent contact” with commissioners to arrange contingency plans for the services.

HSJ has seen a letter to GPs in Birmingham, sent 20 November, which said: “As a result of the decision by our group, Allied Healthcare, to cease all operations by mid-December 2018, Primecare (a division of Allied Healthcare) will no longer be in a position to provide individual GP practices with primary medical services including GP OOH opted-in cover, half day cover, ad hoc cover or any telephony-based services as from 1 December 2018.

“You are advised to make urgent contact with your relevant CCGs to discuss contingency plans for the provision of these services.”

Primecare also provides out of hours and urgent care services in Walsall, Sandwell and West Birmingham, Herefordshire, and Nene, and is part of an integrated 111 and out of hours contract covering 16 CCGs in the west Midlands.

In a statement to HSJ Primecare said it had contacted all of its customers, including GPs in Birmingham, to notify them it intended to cease providing services. The dates this will occur in other areas is unclear.

HSJ has contacted commissioners in the other areas, but they have directed queries to the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Robert Morley, a senior GP in Birmingham, raised serious concerns over the letter, saying it had come “without any meaningful notice period to put safe alternative arrangements in place”.

Earlier this month, the Care Quality Commission issued a warning to all local authorities over the future of services run by Allied Healthcare, due to concerns over its finances.

Allied Healthcare subsequently complained the CQC warning had “negatively impacted” the firm by influencing customers to transfer care services to alternative providers, and disrupting staff retention and recruitment.

In a statement last week, it said it was “actively exploring a range of options in order to minimise disruption to continuity of care, including the sale or transition of care and support services on a regional or contract-by-contract basis to alternative providers best placed to deliver care at a local level”.

Allied Healthcare runs social care services such as domicillary care in every region of England, including 17 in the north west.

A spokesman for Primecare and Allied Healthcare, said: ”We have been liaising closely with our customers to ensure that they are supported in securing alternative providers to deliver these services. We are committed to working with both CCGs and GP practices to ensure safe continuity of patient care throughout the handover process.”

In December 2017, HSJ reported on the collapse of another out of hours contract run by Primecare in East Kent. The provider, which was contracted to run NHS111 and GP out of hours services, for East Kent CCG gave commissioners three months’ notice that it intended to terminate its contract. It came after Primecare’s East Kent service was rated “inadequate” by the CQC.

This story was corrected at 9:46 on 26 November to reflect that Primecare had told GPs only in Birmingham it was due to cease operations by 1 December.