Call for more scrutiny of out-of-hours medic firm
An investigation into Cornwall's out-of-hours doctors service by the National Audit Office would provide "greater reassurance" than current reviews, an MP has said.
The performance of private firm Serco has been under intense scrutiny following concerns raised by St Ives Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George earlier this year.
That sparked an inquiry by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which concluded the firm was failing to meet four essential targets.
It also judged that it was "possible" that its performance may have been "overstated" because managers routinely altered negative data.
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Last week, the results of an internal probe by Serco were revealed ahead of a meeting of the NHS board which commissions the service.
The company said it had examined 107,000 records of which 252 "found insufficient, inconsistent or conflicting evidence from the various data sources used".
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairman of the parliamentary public accounts committee, said that warranted an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Mr George said that may be the only way to "verify" the internal investigation and provide "greater reassurance" in the service. Any NAO inquiry has to be accepted by the public accounts committee.
"They [NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly] have said they will be undertaking a further review of what's been going on," Mr George said. "That is encouraging but in itself may not be enough. I think a further investigation by the Audit Office would be helpful because the CQC were limited as to their forensic processes."
In addition to Serco's own inquiry, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly ordered an independent report from Dr David Colin-Thomè, which will be discussed at a meeting of board members later today. He said there was no evidence "that the current out-of-hours service is or has been systematically clinically unsafe".
But he warned: "However, an important caveat: until significant problems are all rectified, I cannot say with certainty that the service will remain safe.
"The main and continuing problem despite improvement is the insufficient numbers of general medical practitioners to man the service."
Steve Moore, chief executive of NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said Serco had not gained by the inaccurate data and had apologised.
He said: "I am pleased to say that patient satisfaction with the service remains high and Serco is working constructively with us to address the issues raised by our review."
Paul Forden, managing director of Serco's clinical healthcare business, said its "action plan" was addressing "all the issues raised in the earlier CQC report".