Secrecy shrounds out of hours GP verdict

Health bosses have picked the new operator to run the county's emergency out-of-hours service - but they have refused to say who it is.Norfolk Primary Care Trust made the final decision between the two leading contenders to run the new-look GP out-of-hours service at a board meeting this week.

Health bosses have picked the new operator to run the county's emergency out-of-hours service - but they have refused to say who it is.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust made the final decision between the two leading contenders to run the new-look GP out-of-hours service at a board meeting this week.

But it later emerged that senior board members had no idea who the winning bidder was when they picked the “anonymous” option from a selection of two offered by managers.

However, the EDP understands that Anglian Medical Care - currently run by the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) and the operator which has run the out-of-hours service in Norfolk service since 2004 - is among the final two names.

A panel of managers, clinicians and patient and public involvement forum representatives were involved in the process of whittling down an initial 13 applicants from within the NHS and the independent sector to a shortlist of six, and then to the final two.

Last night a PCT spokeswoman defended the decision not to reveal the identity of the successful bidder.

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“To enable successful and unsuccessful tenderers be notified and ask questions, there is a 10-day period in which the award will not be announced,” she said. “The tenderers were aware of the process and time-scales.”

However, GPs in the county are said to be anxious to know who the new operator is and one said: “It is quite bizarre that the PCT has made a decision but will not tell us who it is.”

The EDP has learned that some doctors may be reluctant to do out-of-hours shifts under some of the contenders.

The PCT has also changed the specification for the service and is known to want a more cost-effective service than the one that has been running for the last three years. GPs are currently paid £50-£80 an hour for OOH shifts, but that rate may be cut by anew operator.

Mandy Hall, who led the project for the PCT, told the board meeting on Tuesday : “We received some robust proposals and it was a close run thing between the final two.”

She added that the unsuccessful applicant would have a 10-day period to appeal the decision but she said she was confident it would not come to that.

It also emerged that the new OOH service will have a minor injuries treatment element to it.

The PCT has explained that the process for selecting the new operator was run within Department of Health guidelines but with local PCT input.

“The process and criteria used was very robust and other PCTs are now showing a great deal of interest in learning from our work,” and she added: “The tenders were not anonymous, but were dealt with in confidence by two panels which included managers, clinicians, a practice manager and a member of the Patient and Public Involvement Forum.”

The EEAS has declined to comment on the tender process for the new OOH contract.

Dr Ian Hume, chairman of the Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs in Norfolk, said: “It all seems to have been done very secretively. I feel sorry for people working within the-out-of-hours set up with AMC and the doctors because they all need to know the outcomes as soon as possible.

“A PCT-provided out-of-hours service should not be the cheapest but the one that is best for the whole Norfolk health community.”

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