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Information withheld on doctor cover

PUBLISHED: 12:24 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:31 03 July 2010

EAST Anglia's health authority has refused to answer fully questions on concerns raised about out-of-hours doctor provider Take Care Now (TCN).

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Mercury's sister paper the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) has revealed that five serious incidents involving the company have been reported in the past two years.

EAST Anglia's health authority has refused to answer fully questions on concerns raised about out-of-hours doctor provider Take Care Now (TCN).

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Mercury's sister paper the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) has revealed that five serious incidents involving the company have been reported in the past two years.

But NHS East of England, the strategic health authority for the region, will not say what issues or areas of concern have been raised, because it says the disclosure “would be likely to prejudice ongoing investigations”.

Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission is investigating the company in the wake of the death of David Gray in the Fenland village of Manea. He was accidentally given an overdose of diamorphine by doctor Daniel Ubani, who had flown over from Germany and was on his first shift for TCN.

Ipswich-based TCN provides out-of-hours doctor cover in Yarmouth and Waveney, Suffolk and Cambridge-shire. It does not cover the rest of Norfolk, which is served by the East of England Ambulance Trust.

NHS East of England has said that the five serious incidents involving TCN included two in Yarmouth and Waveney, two in Suffolk and one in Cambridgeshire. “Initial investigation reports” show that two were deaths, in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. They are thought to be Mr Gray and Clare Secker, 19, from Gorleston, who died of bronchial pneumonia on December 29, three days after a TCN doctor told her over the phone that she had flu.

The EDP has previously reported that there were two other incidents in which Suffolk patients were given too much diamorphine before Mr Gray's death. Neither incident caused serious harm.

NHS East of England says it “does not monitor the performance” of TCN because the contracts are with individual primary care trusts, (PCTs) but it has details of the so-called “serious untoward incidents” which the trusts have reported.

David Cocks, chief executive of TCN, said: “Along with all providers of healthcare services to the NHS, the quality and safety of care we provide is closely monitored by PCTs. Like all providers we have to report every serious untoward incident and not only do we take each incident very seriously but we learn from them as part of our continuous improvement process.”

TCN says it has changed its procedures in the wake of both Mr Gray's and Miss Secker's deaths.

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