GP warns of delays and A&E axe under service privatisation

UP IN ARMS: Campaigners have been out in forcein a bid to save Chorleys A&E unit
UP IN ARMS: Campaigners have been out in forcein a bid to save Chorleys A&E unit

Patients will face longer delays, poorer quality services and no A&E at Chorley under new privatised services, says a top Preston GP.

Health bosses have opened up the urgent care services at Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals to bids from private companies, along with the contracts for out-of-hours GP services.

WARNING: Dr Richard Parry

WARNING: Dr Richard Parry

A preferred bidder for the services has now been selected, and the Evening Post understands that it is a private company based in Manchester called gtd healthcare, also known as Go To Doc.

But the Preston GP group that has been providing out-of-hours services - as well as staffing the Urgent Care Centre which has replaced Chorley’s A&E - says that adequate services cannot be provided within the budget offered.

Richard Parry, a Ribbleton GP and chairman of the Preston Primary Care Centre, says he fears the new company will not be able to cope.

He said: “We don’t think that the service will work at this cost.”

We don’t think that the service will work at this cost.

It was in April when crisis first erupted at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, prompted by staff shortages so severe that the A&E department had to be closed down.

It was replaced by an Urgent Care Centre, which can treat minor injuries and only runs during the day.

To help with the staffing of the centre, into the breach stepped the Preston Primary Care Centre, which has been providing out-of-hours GP services in Preston since 1995.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals said at the time that the closure of A&E was temporary, and they hoped to reopen by the end of August. However last week, the Trust admitted that it would not be reopening this summer and was unable to say when – or if – it would be reopening.

Dr Parry, who works as a GP at the Ribbleton Medical Centre, said: “When Chorley’s A&E shut in April, the CCG and the Hospital Trust were desperate to provide some sort of service in Chorley, so we put a doctor in to Chorley Hospital and Chorley Medics also put in a doctor, just to provide some service that was better than nothing.

“We also provide a service for the A&E in Preston, because they have struggled to cope.

“There is a GP based next to the A&E department, so the triage nurse can direct patients there if they feel it would be more appropriate for them to be seen by a GP, rather than an A&E consultant.

“We have taken on extra services such as the DVT service and covering the ambulance service again to improve services for patients. We have been running a well-received minor surgery service for our patients on a very small budget despite saving large sums for the CCG.

“We thought that would stand us in good stead with the CCG when we put in this bid.”

The Clinical Commissioning Group for Preston and Chorley has asked for bids for an integrated urgent care service – which includes the urgent care centres at both hospitals, out-of-hours GPs, plus extra services with North West Ambulance Service and a Deep Vein Thrombosis service.

Dr Parry estimates that around 40 per cent of the people who currently go to A&E will end up being seen by the new service – which is due to start in December.

Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “We haven’t been told anything officially about what’s happening or who has been appointed, but we have seen the reports published in the press about the proposed changes to the urgent care centre.

“This was my fear - that something like this would happen.”

Councillor Bradley added: “There’s a meeting this week of all health chiefs and partners to discuss the future of A&E and urgent care services. I would urge them to rethink their plans for change at this time.

“The urgent care centre will never be a replacement for A&E, which needs to be reopened as soon as possible, but the centre does at least provide some level of cover for the area. We therefore need to see a re-opened A&E together with an Urgent Care facility resourced by the excellent local doctors as soon as possible.”

Jan Ledward, Chief Officer at NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG and NHS Greater Preston CCG said: “The procurement of a new integrated urgent care service was set up to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate treatment for their needs.

“Based at the Chorley Hospital and Royal Preston Hospital sites, the service will deliver GP-led urgent care and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be vital in freeing up the accident and emergency departments for those who really need them.

“The process to procure the service has followed a robust process in line with national guidelines.

“A preferred bidder has now been identified, and while the bidders involved have been informed, we will not be able to make a public announcement on the decision until a legal ‘standstill’ period has finished, which will be for a minimum of 10 days.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust said: “The outcome of the tender process for the urgent care centre has not yet been officially announced so we are unable to comment at this time for legal reasons.

“We will continue to work with commissioners and other partners to ensure safe and effective care is maintained.

“The System Resilience Group will be considering the potential options for providing urgent care and the emergency department service in the short to medium term.”

gtd has been identified as the preferred bidder, and the CCG will now begin the process of checking the bid.

A spokesman for gtd healthcare said it was unable to comment, as the procurement process is still ongoing.

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