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Primecare to terminate NHS 111 service contract and out of hours service for GPs in east Kent

By Paul Francis

The company providing an out of hours service for GPs in east Kent and the NHS 111 service is to walk away from its contract, we can reveal.

It comes after a damning inspection report that found Primecare, the company who had been awarded the contract in 2016, was failing to provide a safe service and was putting patients at risk.

The Care Quality Commission also issued warning notices to the company that said it was ineffective, not well led and patient care needed improvement.

Uncertainty surrounds the NHS 111 service in Kent
Uncertainty surrounds the NHS 111 service in Kent

Now Primecare has given notice that it is to terminate the three-year contract next June.

Simon Perks, the chief accountable officer for Ashford and Canterbury CCGs, said despite efforts to turn round performance, there remained problems and admitted the contract procurement process had gone wrong.

“A lot of effort and collaborative work went into the mobilisation of this and it has not worked.

"The provider did not come into this to provide a bad service.

"We need to review what happened with procurement because clearly it has not gone well.”

He told a cross-party health scrutiny committee today the company had informed the four east Kent CCGs that it was giving notice on the three-year contract barely a year after it started.

The decision is a major setback for the service, which covers Ashford, Canterbury, Thanet, Shepway and Dover.

Mr Perks also revealed that most of the out-of-hours service was being provided by clinicians from outside Kent and that despite having the power to impose financial sanctions againt Primecare, none had been.

At the time of the announcement, GPs said there had been a “rigourous and thorough procurement” and the “joined-up service... would give patients a better experience.”

Simon Perks
Simon Perks

A press release proclaimed bringing the services together would help us “to ensure they work seamlessly, reducing handovers, cutting duplication and making sure patients have a better experience.”

In fact, barely three months into the contract the CCGs issued the company with a warning notice over its performance.

That was followed by the damning report by inspectors in May this year which placed the service in special measures.

The Care Quality Commission said Primecare had failed to ensure they had properly assessed the risks to patients “in respect of reporting, recording and learning from significant events.”

It also said there were too few staff and that there was a lack of training.

Particularly damning was the comment by inspectors that there was “insufficient attention to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

"Staff did not understand their roles or know who led the East Kent locality in safeguarding. Training for safeguarding was incomplete."

There will now have to be a new procurement process, but there will also be an investigation into the award of the contract.

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