Keep Gloucestershire GP Out Of Hours Service within the NHS!

Despite the results of this year`s staff and public consultation showing overwhelming support for services remaining within the NHS, the GP Out Of Hours Service (OOH) is being put out to tender by NHS Gloucestershire. Please sign the petition and spread the word on yet another threat to our NHS.

Petiton text (in italics) and background information is reproduced below:

I kindly ask you to seriously consider the long term effect of putting the Gloucestershire GP Out of Hours contract out to tender. Partly due to the introduction of 111 in March of next year, but also because any contract that is tendered has to be in the public interest. Ballots exist, on a related matter, where 96% of patients voted to keep community services within the NHS in Gloucestershire. Private companies may seek to obtain the contract and, by definition, will be looking to achieve monetary profit from their involvement, clearly to the detriment of the patient population. Furthermore, Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust already provides an exemplary home visiting service to its patients. Our GPs, ably assisted by a member of the ambulance service, attend thousands of unwell patients per annum. Our vehicles carry numerous medications and diagnostic tools, thereby enabling the GP a wider spectrum of treatment options than our private competitors. This inevitably improves patient care and choice, whilst simultaneously reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.

Why is this important?

Currently this service is being provided by Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS), in conjunction with Gloucester Care Services, since the GPs gave up all Out of Hours work in October 2004. The service provided to date has been exemplary. The OOH visiting service is made up of GWAS employed GPs, with additional pre-hospital care skills, as well as “sessional” doctors, most of whom are local GPs. We strongly believe in the maxim that local patients should be seen by local GPs. We have made major progress in drastically reducing any need for locum doctors within the service, unlike potential competitors.

The above service is due to be tendered by NHS Gloucestershire, with the process planned to start in October of this year. At the moment, GWAS have an extension on the contract up until September 2013 (actual contract end was April 2013). After this date, the tendering process may allow any qualified provider (AQP) to take over the provision of OOH care. This would include private companies (eg. Harmoni, Virgin) who aim to make a monetary profit for their share-holders from such contracts, hence diverting money away from patient care.

Given the introduction of the new 111 service in March 2013, it seems extremely questionable to put the OOH contract out to tender. The 111 service will replace NHS Direct but little will be known of the required supply and demand needs until at least two years after its inception. Putting the OOH contract out now could potentially lead to increased costs and worsening patient care in our unique geographical region of approximately 600,000 patients.

Private companies are rapidly swallowing up local services and its important we do all we can to keep this, and other, excellent services within the NHS and with local GPs. If the switch to private providers is made, it is highly unlikely that the process could be reversed in future. Please sign this campaign to show your support.

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