PRIMARY CARE Rumours of complaints dog dropped service provider

Published: 07/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5949 Page 7

Four primary care trusts in Hampshire have dropped their contract with Primecare, the largest independent out-of-hours provider in the country.

Officially Southampton City PCT, Eastleigh and Test Valley PCT, New Forest PCT and Mid Hampshire PCT say they have listened to public opinion and want to provide the out-of-hours service locally.

A statement on their behalf said: 'On 1 July 2004, local PCTs commissioned Primecare to handle calls made after GP surgery hours. With the Primecare contract up for renewal [in September 2005], local PCTs intend to run the majority of services themselves, which is what local people wanted.' But the Daily Mail and BBC Online have reported that there have been numerous complaints about the service.

The PCTs and Primecare - a part of Nestor Healthcare Group - denied that complaints were the reason the contract had not been renewed.

A Southampton City PCT spokeswoman said: 'This is a service we inherited from GPs when we picked up responsibility for out-ofhours services.

'We always wanted to provide a service locally and are now taking the next step to do that.' Running their own services would allow the PCTs to reduce costs and bring in a robust system to monitor performance, she added.

Hampshire Ambulance Service had already been approached to provide the call handling, telephone assessment and patient transport.

A spokesperson for Primecare said that the service had so far received 23,500 patients' calls in 2005, more than 7,000 a month. It had received 67 patient complaints since September 2004. 'We are not complacent as one complaint is one too many but we reject the idea that the loss of the contract is because of a high level of complaints, ' she said.

Primecare had provided out-ofhours services from its Southampton office for 25 years under contracts with local GPs, she added.

Primecare managing director Keith Bushnell said: 'We regret that we will no longer be providing services in these areas. We will work to support a seamless migration to the new out-of-hours arrangements for West Hampshire patients.' Primecare currently provides outof-hours care for 8 million people across the UK.