Serco is a step nearer running community services in Suffolk after signing a contract with the PCT.

Services currently run by Suffolk Community Healthcare are likely to formally transfer by the autumn. Serco - which will deliver the services in partnership with South Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust and a dental services social enterprise  - was chosen as preferred bidder earlier this year.

NHS Suffolk has revealed the contract was signed two weeks ago, just days before the release of a critical Care Quality Commission report into out-of-hours services in Cornwall which are also run by Serco.

Julian Herbert, NHS Suffolk’s acting chief executive said: “The contract signing marks a major milestone in the journey towards finding a new provider for community health services in the county. Serco has been carefully selected and we believe they will provide improved care for patients and new opportunities for staff.

“Importantly, the care that patients receive will still be NHS care and community health services will still be part of the NHS.”

Paul Forden, managing director, acute care for Serco said patients would be placed at the heart of the service while clinicians would be empowered to spend more time caring.

”By working closely with partners from across the NHS, voluntary and private sector, we believe we can deliver a truly exemplary service which will bring real benefits to the county’s 600,000 patients,” he said.

Last week the CQC said that Serco’s service in Cornwall had failed to meet four essential standards.