• Corby Urgent Care Centre may close on Thursday due to Corby and Nene CCGs refusing to pay national tariff rate for the work
  • The centre will continue the contract if the CCGs agree to legal adjudication over fees as the centre claims it loses £30,000 a month running the service
  • No agreement has been reached with current provider and no alternative provider has yet been found

A GP consortium is threatening to close its urgent care centre this week, arguing that its local commissioners are acting “unlawfully” in refusing to pay it the NHS national tariff rate for its work.

Corby urgent care centre

Corby urgent care centre

Lakeside+ Ltd has run the Corby Urgent Care Centre in Northamptonshire since May 2012. It claims the centre is at risk of closing on Thursday as its local commissioners, Nene and Corby clinical commissioning groups, are refusing to pay the national tariff rate for the services it provides.

The NHS tariff for a type three A&E centre like Corby UCC is currently £57 per patient and will rise to £63 per patient from April.

However, the consortium says the CCGs pay £44.50 for the first 137 patients through the door each day, falling to £15 for any subsequent patients treated. A spokesman for the centre said it treats 207 patients a day on average and overall is losing £30,000 a month.

A statement from the centre said: “The local CCGs have not paid the national tariff since it came into force in 2014 and as a result the centre has run at a [financial] loss in recent years. Doctors running the centre have repeatedly pointed out the unlawful nature of the low fee paid per patient but to no avail”.

Although the centre had previously criticised the CCGs for a “total lack of negotiations”, a spokesman for the urgent care centre said on Friday that it had offered a “major concession” to the commissioners to continue operating the centre at the current contract rates providing the CCGs agree to “legal adjudication” over the fees. Asked if the centre will look to backdate any revised tariff, the spokesman said “it will look at all options”.

He also said a mediation session scheduled for Wednesday is a bid to “resolve the existing legal dispute”.

Corby CCG has previously insisted that the centre will not close this week regardless of these negotiations. In a statement on its website, the CCG said: “Lakeside+ have given notice that they wish to withdraw from their contract at the end of March, but it is not their role to decide if the service comes to an end. That decisions rests with the CCG.”

The centre responded by saying Corby CCG’s statement was “nothing more than misinformation and spin”. It said it is “not true” that Lakeside+ is withdrawing from the contract, and it it wants to continue to run the service. A spokesman said: “All we are asking the NHS to do, is to pay national rates for nationally rated services.”

The UCC said the original contract said “the agreement shall expire on 31 March 2017”. The provider and commissioner are at odds over whether a contract addendum extending the deal by six months is legally enforceable.

As of Friday, the centre said the CCGs had not “put an alternative provider forward”. It also said Lakeside+ was asked to work with an alternative provider to ensure continuity of the service provided. It added that the CCGs do not own the building, the patient record system or specialist diagnostic equipment.

A spokesman for Corby CCG said: “It is unfortunate that Lakeside + have chosen to publicly raise what is a contractual dispute between Lakeside + (in its capacity as a corporate entity) and the CCG, and in a way in which does not accurately reflect all of the underlying details or issues in dispute. Lakeside + has made a number of claims on which the CCG and their legal advisers do not agree.”

The centre claims it treats “76,000 patients a year” and sees an average of 209 patients per 12 hour shift.

Martin McGrath, a Lakside+ GP, said: “We can deliver healthcare far more cheaply than the costs of the same service at the local A&E. I dread the thought of our 75,000 patients descending on Kettering A&E with all of their current needs.”

Between October and December 2016, Kettering General Hospital’s A&E only treated 82 per cent of patients within the national four hour target. Nene CCG board papers show the hospital has had delayed transfer of care rates of up to 90 people a week.

The UCC currently provides advanced diagnostic equipment such as advanced near-patient laboratory testing, ultrasound and X-ray facilities.