Two out-of-hours providers have just a few weeks to prove their services are up to scratch, HSJ can reveal.

Urgent Care 24, which provides services to nearly a million people on Merseyside, has promised its primary care trust it will produce evidence of how it is meeting national quality requirements for out-of-hours providers by next month.

And Serco, a multinational service company, has been set a deadline by its PCT to improve services in Cornwall this week.

PCTs in both areas have taken a tough line following complaints.

Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton PCTs carried out a joint review of the services provided by Urgent Care 24 after concerns were raised by a former employee.

Among the promised improvements are: regular reporting of compliance against national quality requirements; sending clinical information to the patient's GP practice by 8am the day after a consultation; assurance that all complaints will be resolved within 28 days; reports on calls involving life-threatening conditions not passed to the ambulance service within three minutes; protocols to deal with difficult calls; and investigating why some calls are abandoned by callers.

Urgent Care 24 chief executive Nigel Wylie said: 'It is being able to evidence what we are doing. We believe we are partially or fully compliant with all quality requirements.'

In Cornwall, Serco has been given 20 days to improve the service by Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT. The PCT said the provider had already increased the number of clinical staff available.

A Serco spokesman said compliance with national standards had been improving but deteriorated over Christmas and was unacceptable at that point. 'Currently, on most of our targets we are at 95 per cent and above,' he said..

Both Liverpool and Cornwall PCTs said they expected the plans to work but that they would review their options if there was no marked improvement. A Cornwall PCT spokeswoman added: 'We would take whatever action is necessary to ensure we are providing a good-quality service.'