PRIVATEER Serco failed to provide enough staff for the out-of-hours GP services it is contracted to run in Cornwall, the National Audit Office has found.
Following a request from the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the NAO looked into what had happened. The NAO press statement said: ‘Among the concerns raised was that Serco had been unable to fill shifts with appropriately qualified staff, with the result that the out-of-hours service was unsafe.
‘A clinical review of the service in June 2012 found no evidence that the service was, or had been, systematically clinically unsafe. However, during 2012 Serco regularly had insufficient staff to fill all clinical shifts. It also frequently redeployed some GPs, taking them out of the cars available for home visits and using them to cover clinic shifts instead.
‘In July 2012, the Care Quality Commission reported that the out-of-hours service did not have enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs.’ It added: ‘Serco has not consistently met the national quality requirements for out-of-hours services set by the Department of Health.’
Also: ‘Whistleblowers raised concerns that Serco staff were altering data about the performance of the out-of-hours service. A forensic audit by Serco, covering every interaction which passed through the switchboard between January and June 2012, found that two members of staff made 252 unauthorised changes to performance data. This represented 0.2 per cent of all interactions with patients during the six-month period.
‘As a result of the data changes, the performance Serco reported to the primary care trust was overstated in seven instances.’
It added that: ‘Whistleblowers’ concerns had not been identified by routine management controls or by the primary care trust itself. Serco had a whistleblowing policy but evidence suggests that whistleblowers were still fearful of raising concerns. Serco and the primary care trust have since reminded all staff of the importance of raising concerns and the protection available to whistleblowers.’