East Lancashire out-of-hours GP deal ends threat of private firm takeover
Out-of-hours GP services in East Lancashire will not now go out to tender after an ‘innovative’ deal was struck.
East Lancashire Medical Services (ELMS), an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise comprising 130 doctors and 24 nurses, has run the service for the last 18 years.
Doctors and patient groups condemned plans this summer to put the service out to tender for the first time, which could have seen a commercial company take over.
However, both of East Lancashire's primary care trusts have now agreed to extend ELMS’ existing contract instead.
Under the agreement, the out-of-hours GP service will share the urgent care centres at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals to create a pilot ‘one-stop shop’.
The details of the proposals are still under development, but it could see patients who attend urgent care centres being seen by GPs, as opposed to hospital-based emergency department doctors.
Health chiefs hope this will reduce unnecessary waiting and simplify access to treatment.
Graham Burgess, chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, said: “We believe the revised service will improve patient experience and deliver value for money.
“We have listened to the concerns of patients, GPs, and other stakeholders, about the original decision to tender the out-of-hours service and think we have come up with an acceptable solution that addresses all the issues.”
Russ McLean, chairman of the ELMS Patient Voice Group, said: “The patients of East Lancashire can be assured their opinions have been listened to.
"This is a positive move for the health economy and we are delighted with the outcome.”
Dr Chris Clayton, Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, said the move was ‘a very important step forward’.
Dr David White, lead GP for Burnley Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS East Lancashire’s clinical lead for urgent care said: “By colocating and integrating urgent care services it will increase the range of clinical skills available to respond to the range of urgent care problems.”