A Doncaster GP fears the town’s ‘gold standard’ of urgent care could be at risk as out-of-hours healthcare services are put out to tender.
NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group put the contract for Doncaster’s out-of-hours healthcare, or urgent care services, out to tender earlier this year.
And now Blackpool-based social enterprise FCMS has been confirmed as the preferred bidder to transform the way people receive care outside working hours.
As the October deadline approaches, Dr Dean Eggitt says he is worried the introduction of a new provider could result in a reduction in the standard of care for Doncaster patients.
Dr Eggitt, who represents the town’s doctors nationally through his role as a medical secretary, said: “Inevitably, a new provider is likely to try to cut costs and, because GPs are the most expensive kind of resource for this kind of care, it is likely they may look to place someone who has less medical training in these positions instead.
Dr Eggitt, a GP at Oakwood Surgery in Cantley, said: “At the moment GPs are on the other end of the line if a patient in Doncaster needs to see a GP out of hours.
“They speak to them and advise them of the best thing for them.
“One of the reasons we have a gold standard of care is for that reason – because people here will be able to speak to a Doncaster GP with experience of them and the area.
“Only three Doncaster GPs were consulted in this process and so, while FCMS seems approachable and like it wants to work closely with GPs, most doctors in Doncaster have serious concerns about what this could mean for patients.”
A CCG spokesman said: “Over recent years, the number of patients accessing services outside of A&E has increased.
“This is positive, but it has put pressure on some of the building space available to run services.
“In addition, as existing contracts were coming up for renewal, we have taken the opportunity to carry out a thorough review of a number of local urgent care services in Doncaster.
“These are the health services people require at short notice, including access to a GP.
“Key to our approach is to make sure Doncaster patients can see the right person, at the right place, at the right time and this principle has guided the development of our plans, which become operational on Thursday, October 1, in time to help manage the annual winter pressures on the NHS.
“Doncaster GPs have developed the plans, based on national best practice, local knowledge and experience of current services and from knowing what works well and what needs to improve.
“Last year, Doncaster patients were asked their views on how local urgent care services should be delivered and this also influenced the new service model.”
As part of the shake-up from October 1, when patients access A&E, they will now be assessed when they arrive and directed either to the emergency centre if they have a serious condition, or to an adjoining GP-led urgent care service, if it is less so.
The GP service will run 24 hours a day and incorporates the GP Out of Hours service.
FCMS said it could not comment until its bid had been confirmed.
However a statement on its website says: “FCMS are delighted to announce we have been successful in our bid to deliver urgent care services in Doncaster.
“This includes an urgent care centre and a GP out-of-hours contract.”