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Out-of-hours health firm loses contract

PUBLISHED: 09:17 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:57 03 July 2010

AN underfire healthcare provider was last night counting the cost of another lost regional NHS contract after health chiefs in Suffolk opted for a different out-of-hours company.

AN underfire healthcare provider was last night counting the cost of another lost regional NHS contract after health chiefs in Suffolk opted for a different out-of-hours company.

East Anglian firm Take Care Now (TCN) was stripped of a contract with NHS Cambridgeshire earlier this month in the aftermath of the death of a patient who was accidentally killed by an exhausted German doctor on his first locum shift in the UK.

Officials from the Ipswich-based independent provider yesterday spoke of their “disappointment” after NHS Suffolk decided against renewing an out-of-hours GP and dental service contract, which expires in March, and awarded a new five year agreement to Harmoni HS.

The news follows a review by the Care Quality Commission into TCN, which employed German GP Dr Daniel Ubani, who gave a fatal dose of diamorphine to David Gray, 70, from Manea, Cambridgeshire, in February last year.

An interim report criticised TCN for failing to fill doctors' shifts and its policies for dispensing medicine, which led to health bosses in Cambridgeshire cancelling its contract over safety concerns.

Derby-based Harmoni, which holds six NHS out-of-hours contracts nationally, will take over Suffolk services from TCN on April 1. The private healthcare provider will also take over the out-of-hours responsibility of six GP practices on the Norfolk-Suffolk border after the East of England Ambulance Service Trust decided against putting in a tender for the new contract to focus its resources on emergency care.

Officials at NHS Suffolk said that the contract with Harmoni would provide a better service to rural patients by cutting waiting times for non-emergency patients from six hours to four.

Dr Andrew Hassan, medical director at NHS Suffolk, said: “The panel felt the arrangements of this provider for clinical governance were robust and safe, its quality of care arrangements strong, and ideas for improvement and development of a quality service innovative.”

“We would like to reassure people across Suffolk that during the transition period between service providers, we will make sure that the safety of patients using the service, and their clinical care, remains our top priority.”

A spokesman for TCN, which still provides out-of-hours services in Yarmouth and Waveney, said the company would continue to work with NHS Suffolk at the minor injuries unit in Ipswich and delivering sexual health services in the county.

“TCN will remain focused on the delivery of out-of-hours services until March 31 when the contract ends and will work to ensure a seamless transfer to the new provider,” he said.

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