COMMERCIAL: GPs in Cornwall have been urged to take back control of out of hours services to preserve the future of general practice in the county, HSJ has learned.

The call comes in a letter to practices from Peter Merrin, chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local medical committee, which warns the future of Cornish general practice was “dependant” on GPs playing a larger role in the provision of out of hours care.

The letter follows confirmation from Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group last week that it would tender for a new out of hours provider to take over from Serco next May.

The company is exiting its contract 16 months early as it is making a loss on the service. This follows high profile concerns about the quality of the service in 2012 and additional investment by the firm.

Kernow had hoped to introduce an interim service with an alliance of local providers while it redesigned the service to improve integration with other parts of the system and “blur the lines” between in hours and out of hours care.

Following discussions with local GPs, Peninsula Community Health and South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust, the CCG concluded that the interim option was unviable.  

Dr Merrin’s letter suggests GPs becoming involved through the Kernow Health Community Interest Company, of which all Cornish practices are members.

He stressed this did not mean individuals were committed to provide the service themselves.

The letter said: “This would protect us against outside providers and allow us to develop our range of services, whilst trying to protect our practices and our livelihoods.

“We cannot do this alone and it is the [local medical committee’s] view that it can only be achieved by working with partner agencies.”

Kernow Health CIC has been in discussions with Devon Doctors, a GP co-operative that has provided out of hours service in Devon since 1996, and South West Ambulance.

A spokeswoman for the CCG said it remained committed to improving integration between services, despite the shorter timeframe for re-procurement.

A new provider is due to be announced early next year.

This story was update at 1511hrs on 7/10/2014 to clarify that Serco says it exited the contract as it was making a loss