Serco, the country’s top privateer in the NHS and other public services, is under investigation over allegations that it ran an ‘unsafe’ GP out-of-hours service in Cornwall by cutting staffing levels to the bone.
It is further alleged that in order to cover up this situation, Serco has manipulated data and logs to make it appear that it is fulfilling its obligations under the terms of its contract to run (for profit) the county’s service.
Since the news that Serco was under investigation first leaked out to the press over a week ago further accusations have surfaced.
According to staff and patients, from midnight to 8am on the 29th May only one GP was on call, covering the entire county, and one whistleblower insists that this was no isolated incident.
One GP to cover a county that it takes over two hours to drive from one end to the other!
Serco itself, while denying accusations of providing an unsafe service and falsifying statistics, does not actually deny that only one GP was provided by them for out-of-hours on this night but, they insist, this was not unsafe, saying: ‘There were a total of five experienced clinical and medical staff, each one in a car.’
The local PCT, while admitting that it was ‘concerned’ and had ‘raised the issue’ with Serco, admitted that its contract with the company did not specify how many doctors should be on call overnight.
Serco originally won the contract to run out-of-hours service in Cornwall in 2006 when the then Labour government began the process of opening up NHS services to the profit hungry privateers.
This contract was renewed last October and is estimated to be worth £6.4 million a year to Serco, it replaced the previous not-for-profit service run by a co-operative of local GPs.
The only way that companies like Serco can make a profit out of the NHS is by deploying as many cost-cutting schemes as they can get away with, mainly in the area of staffing levels and cutting the service for patients to the barest minimum and even below that level.
An insight into what these vultures have in store for the NHS was provided recently by a director of Deloittes UK Centre for Health Solutions, a company that styles itself as a business advisory firm that ‘supports innovations in health solutions’, when he was quoted as saying that face-to-face GP consultations were no longer sustainable.
In other words, in future there will be no local GP surgeries where patients can meet with their doctors, all that will be replaced by phone calls to non-medical call centre staff who will run through a computer generated set of questions and diagnose your condition from that.
This is already the system, called Pathway, that Serco is running in Cornwall and the system that will be introduced throughout the country as ‘best practice’ under the new health act.
The future for the NHS under this government couldn’t be clearer, doctors along with hospitals are old hat. ‘innovative solutions’ will require cutting back on expensive doctors and hospital buildings and replacing them with untrained call centre staff reading from a computer print-out.
The process of privatisation of the NHS started by the Blair/Brown Labour governments has become a headlong rush into the complete destruction of socialised medicine in Britain under this coalition government.
Safeguarding the huge gain of the NHS is inseparable today from the fight to bring down this government and replace it not with a Labour but with a workers government that will innovate by closing down the privateers and taking profit out of the health system.