A DECISION to allow a private healthcare company to step in and take over NHS services in Gloucestershire has been roundly criticised by the leader and deputy leader of Stroud District Council.

The Labour councillors said the choice to award the contract for primary care Out-of-Hours service to Care UK was another “sad example” of the slow privatisation of the NHS.

Due to tightening budgets the publicly funded South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust, which currently runs the services, announced last autumn it would be forced to terminate its contract early to focus efforts on the provision of 999/emergency care.

Now Care UK will step in on a 10-month interim deal to provide a wide range of front line services including 111 and GP out of hours.

Steve Lydon, Labour leader of SDC and a county councillor who sits on the Health Scrutiny Committee raised concerns about the private sector company’s past record.

“Care UK's track record is to say the least questionable,” he said.

“Their delivery of the local 111 service has been the source of much complaint, and at the start of their delivery of that service the Health Scrutiny Committee were rightly concerned about their performance.

“Sadly this is another example of the disassembly of the NHS to private organisations.”

District councillor Doina Cornell, who represents SDC on the county Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee, said the tax payer in Gloucestershire would now be paying a private company to provide NHS services.

“No wonder the NHS hasn't enough money when tax payers have to fund the profits of private companies like Care UK not to mention the bureaucracy of renewing contracts every few years,’ she said “Stroud Labour party supports the NHS Reinstatement Bill which is back in parliament on 24 February.

“The only way to keep our NHS sustainable financially in the future is to end this back door privatisation and therefore I urge our local MPs to support this bill.”

The comments from Labour councillors follow strong criticism of the Care UK deal from NHS campaigners in Stroud on Thursday.

Care UK, which is Britain’s biggest provider of out-of-hours services, will take over on a short-term contract from June 1, 2017.

The agreement was made after a competitive tender and evaluation process by the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Stroud News and Journal:

Responding to the Labour councillors, Sarah-Jane Graham, national director of integrated urgent care, said: “Care UK is committed to providing high quality care and we have many years of experience running similar out of hours services.

“Those services regularly achieve excellent patient satisfaction scores and the latest figures for our border out of hours service in Worcestershire show a 96.3 per cent satisfaction rate.

“We believe that our considerable knowledge of the local Gloucestershire health infrastructure, combined with an NHS 111 service which has consistently performed above the national average in a number of quality indicators and receives very low complaint rates averaging 0.05 per cent per month, puts us in a strong position to deliver a clinically safe and patient focused service to people living in the region.

“We are pleased to have been selected by NHS Gloucestershire CCG to run the out of hours service and will be working closely with our partners during the 10 month contract to provide patients with the best possible service.”

Health chiefs in the county say the deal will help ensure high quality and safety for patients during the interim and have promised a seamless transition.

Mary Hutton, accountable officer CCG, said: “This was a strong bid and we are keen to work with Care UK to ensure high quality, safe and timely out of hours services which fully meet the needs of our patients during this period.

“We know from patients that what they really want is joined up care and treatment with the best possible co-ordination between services. Care UK will work in close partnership with our other local providers to achieve this.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be working with Care UK and the current provider, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust to ensure a seamless transition and service continuity for the benefit of patients. High quality care will be the top priority.

“We are fortunate that local GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals working in Gloucestershire have continued to support the Out of Hours service over the years and we will want to work closely with them to retain their skills and expertise.”