COMMISSIONING: NHS 111 and GP out of hours services in east Kent are to be run by one organisation – but there are already fears about the transition to the new provider.

Mobile phone

Mobile phone

Primecare, which is owned by Allied Healthcare, will provide an integrated service from October, including a care navigator service to help more complex patients remain at home. The current providers are South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust for 111 and social enterprise IC24 for out of hours GP services.

The four east Kent CCGs say Primecare will initially run the combined service for three years, with an option to extend for another two. It said Primecare came top in a rigorous evaluation by patients and commissioners, who looked at safety, quality, service delivery and overall cost effectiveness.

However, a report to the CCG boards last month on the mobilisation of the new contract has five “red rated” risks including the risks related to this being Primecare’s first 111 contract, staff not transferring across from current operators and a new call centre not being ready in time. Even after planned mitigation, the risk around the new call centre remains at red.

A spokesman for the NHS in east Kent said: “We are confident that the new east Kent integrated urgent care service will be fully operational by October. The implementation of this innovative project, which unites and enhances separate services, is on track and progress is regularly reviewed by a mobilisation board and project group.

“The risk register identifies potential barriers and a number of those identified in April have since been downgraded. The CCGs followed a rigorous and thorough procurement process and have a full and comprehensive understanding of the work required to establish the new service.

“This hard work will benefit our patients, particularly those with more complex or long term conditions, by looking at their immediate needs as well as their overall health and wellbeing.”

Both current providers have had difficulties. Many CCGs across the south east have had concerns about 111 response times, and in March fewer than half of calls were answered within a minute. Ashford CCG’s board papers also said IC24 was struggling to meet the demands of urgent calls seen through 111 and there is a remedial action plan in place.