A network of small out of hours providers has criticised primary care trusts for “trading off” contracts to other providers without retendering.

Urgent Health UK, a federation of 12 social enterprise out of hours providers across England and Wales, called for more transparency in the transfer of contracts between providers during company takeovers.

The group highlighted the probable sale of Take Care Now - which employed the German doctor who gave a Cambridgeshire patient an overdose while on his first NHS shift - to Harmoni. Take Care Now no longer provides cover in Cambridgeshire but has other contracts.

Urgent Health UK also noted the takeover last week by Virgin Healthcare of Assura Medical, which has a contract for GP out of hours services in North Lancashire. Assura Medical operates 30 “GP Cos” - providers formed in partnership with GPs - which in turn operate 15 polyclinics.

Virgin Group managing partner for health and wellness Patrick McCall said: “Healthcare is a sector that the Virgin Group has been extremely interested in entering for some time.”