The commissioners of a controversial Serco-run GP out of hours service said today they had reached “mutual agreement” with the outsourcing giant to end its contract 17 months early.

Serco’s contract to provide out of hours care in Cornwall will now be cut short at the end of May 2015.

Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group said it had reached the agreement to enable it to move ahead with plans to “redesign out-of-hours emergency care” in the area.

The company, meanwhile, said the decision was part of its wider strategy to pull out of the out-of-hours market and focus on other areas of healthcare.

The contract has been dogged with controversy, after the company admitted some of its staff had falsified data to make the company’s performance appear better than it was. Whistleblowers also raised concerns about poor staffing levels.

In July the Commons public accounts committee criticised Serco’s for having a “bullying culture”, which made it difficult for workers to come forward with concerns.   

Serco’s director of services in Cornwall, Louis Warren, said: “For Kernow, this decision [to cut short the contract] will enable a transition to a new model of integrated, unscheduled care earlier than if the contract period was unchanged, which will benefit the people of Cornwall in times of increased healthcare demand. 

“For Serco, delivering out-of-hours care does not fit with our future healthcare strategy which will concentrate on other areas of the market.”