5:20pm Wednesday 9th January 2013
By Lauren May
A non-profit social enterprise trusted with providing out-of-hours healthcare has launched a legal challenge against the NHS after being stripped of its contract.
Patient Care 24, which receives £4m a year to provide the service in Sutton and Merton, was told on December 27 its contract would not be renewed in April despite offering to cut its costs by 20 per cent.
It is believed the new contract is to be awarded to Bristol-based social enterprise Frendoc, a GP co-operative set to lose its contract with South Gloucestershire NHS trust in Feburary.
Patient 24 has launched a legal challenge against Sutton and Merton PCT claiming the change could put patients at risk and see 125 people lose their jobs.
In an open letter to GPs and practice managers in the area, Alan Kennedy, chief executive of Patient Care 24, said: “As you might expect, we are genuinely worried about the transition and in particular the risk of developing an entirely new Out of Hours Service alongside the continued development of new Clinical Commissioning Groups, Commissioning Support Services and NHS 111.
“Patient Care 24 is so well integrated with health and social care partner agencies across south-west London that we cannot guarantee this change will be risk free for patients.”
Representatives from Patient Care 24 were due to attend a feedback meeting with NHS Sutton and Merton.
When the meeting was cancelled, Patient Care 24 launched the challenge requesting a review of the bidding process.
Patient Care 24 took over running out-of-hours care from Croydoc last year, after it emerged managers had failed to monitor one of its doctors, Ravi Sondhi, who had withdrawn more than £100,000 from the organisation and failed to respond to urgent calls.
Sutton and Merton’s Primary Care Trust has not yet confirmed who has been awarded the new contract.
A spokesman for NHS Sutton and Merton said: “The contract for GP Out of Hours services was tendered in accordance with the requirements of public procurement law, to ensure continued service after the end of the existing provider’s current contract.
“The tender process has not yet concluded, and, therefore, the PCT (NHS Sutton and Merton) is not in a position to disclose details of the outcome.
“The PCT will, in due course, work closely with the successful provider to ensure that, if required, an efficient handover occurs and to avoid any disruption to patients using the Out Of Hours services.”
Frendoc declined to comment while the tendering process was still in progress.
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