North Staffordshire GPs lose 'out of hours' medical care contract
A DOCTORS' group from the North-East of England is to take over night and weekend medical care throughout Staffordshire next spring.
Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC) has been selected to run the out-of-hours GP services by the county's NHS fundholders.
In North Staffordshire the non-profit making organisation beat five rival bids for the multi-million pound contract, which lasts for three years.
They included the locally-based co-operative that has run the service for nearly 20 years using existing North Staffordshire GPs.
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It means North Staffordshire Urgent Care's main surgery in Basford and satellite clinics in Tunstall and Norton will close on the April hand-over.
Their 80,000 patients a year will then be seen at venues yet to be identified by the new organisation.
But one surgery will be opened in either the centre of Stoke-on-Trent or Newcastle and another in Leek, to prevent sick people from the Moorlands having to travel to Basford. In South Staffordshire NDUC will take over from Badger Health after beating four other tenders for the work.
Dresden GP Dr Prasad Rao, chairman of the co-operative, North Staffordshire Urgent Care, said: "I am very disappointed and upset but I trust the commissioners know what they are doing.
"We have been assured our 67 staff including call handlers, drivers and other staff will be transferred across to the new organisation under the TUPE process but I still feel anxious for them as they have been so loyal and dedicated over the years."
NDUC has served 1.5 million people in Northumberland, Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne for 16 years and will look to employ North Staffordshire GPs who know the area.
Its parent group, Vocare, holds a portfolio including 13 urgent care centres, two GP-led walk-in centres with registered patient lists, a GP practice and locum agency.
It piloted the new 111 national urgent care phone line which patients will ring after March.
North Staffordshire's two GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are behind the decision.
Goldenhill GP Dr Chandra Kanneganti, director of unplanned care for Stoke-on-Trent CCG, said: "In a comprehensive procurement process each bidder was marked on areas including quality and price.
"There was a very high standard of applicant and I am delighted we will be working with NDUC which has a proven track record of delivering out-of-hours services."
Audley GP Dr Richard Page, his counterpart with the CCG covering Newcastle and the Moorlands, said: "It's great news people in the Moorlands will no longer have to travel into the city for this care."
NDUC chief executive John Harrison said: "We pride ourselves on employing local GPs to deliver services to their own communities."
Ian Syme, of campaign group Healthwatch, said: "We welcome a Leek surgery but worry that with the same provider countywide the focus needed for North Staffordshire's particular needs could be lost."