NHS England has acknowledged concerns raised about services at some of the 22 practices in Liverpool and Sefton which were taken over by a GP-led company in the spring.

The national commissioning organisation said it was “working together” with SSP Health “to resolve matters as quickly as possible”.

The company, which is run by a husband and wife who are GPs in Greater Manchester, won a contract to run the practices in November. It took them over in March and April.

HSJ understands several patients have raised concerns with SSP and with commissioners, and that several GPs have quit the practices since the takeover.

An NHS England statement said: “[Merseyside area team] is aware there have been issues raised within some practices and both SSP Health and NHS England have been working together to resolve matters.

“Clearly it is always a matter of concern to receive reports of poor patient experience and we have found SSP Health to be proactive in dealing with issues.”

Liverpool Local Medical Committee secretary Rob Barnett said GPs at the city’s practices were unhappy about changes made since the takeover, and several had left. He believed this had led to staffing problems.

Dr Barnett said staff had been “upset” by changes made by SSP and said: “There are doctors who are working in the service who are completely dissatisfied… There are concerns about the quality of service being provided.” He suggested it raised questions about the procurement process, led by the former Merseyside primary care trust cluster, and whether the takeover approach was right.

However, Dr Barnett accepted SSP had been asked to take over the practices at short notice, which was “very, very difficult”.

SSP director Shikha Pitalia told HSJ the company had taken over the Liverpool practices with only two weeks’ notice due to a delay in rubber-stamping the handover. She also said it had inherited several problems, including vacancies, “numerous complex HR issues” and salaried GPs spending insufficient time with patients.

The tender process also included reducing funding to the practices, while requiring a minimum number of GP appointments.

Dr Pitalia said: “Most of the practices were performing sub-optimally for access and clinical outcomes despite significantly high levels of historical funding [before the takeover].”

In an earlier statement she said: “Our priority now is to ensure appropriate patient access from each existing site… Plans for better integration to reduce clinical isolation are being developed.”

Before the takeover SSP ran 17 practices in the North West.