Health service keeps contract

Wiltshire Medical Services (WMS) has had its contract to provide out of hours care extended after it lost out in a bid to run a new telephone service.

WMS, based in Chippen-ham, has run the GP out of hours service across the county – except Swindon – since 2010. As well as employing doctors and nurses to treat patients, the company also answers calls and clinically assesses them.

However, as part of a Government initiative, there will be a new telephone number to call – 111 – across the country for people who need non-emergency healthcare.

The contract to provide the 111 service in Wiltshire was awarded to Harmoni, the largest provider of out of hours care in England. WMS bid for the 111 contract as part of a consortium across the South West, but Harmoni won the contract after being assessed on clinical quality, service interoperability, workforce, training and cost.

The WMS out of hours contract was in place until 2015 and, as a result of negotiations between WMS and NHS Wiltshire, it has been extended until 2018 at a cost of £657,000.

A spokesman for NHS Wilt-shire said: “This (£657,000) was the residual figure from Wiltshire Medical Services losing the call handling element of the out of hours service. Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group will be negotiating with WMS on how the money is utilised into the future for the benefit of the out of hours service.”

Dr Andrew Cowie, director of Wiltshire Medical Services, said: “The reason the extra money is there is because we will be putting in more face-to-face clinical resource. The acuity of people being managed at home has grown and there’s more work to do, so we need to increase our capacity to deal with that work and we expect more work to come out of 111.”

Dr Cowie said more than 70 staff, mostly part-time call handlers and nurses, would lose their jobs if they did not transfer to Harmoni for the 111 contract. He said WMS would be taking on a small number of extra doctors and nurses for their increased out of hours work.

Harmoni will be paid £6.5 million to provide the 111 service in Wiltshire for the next five years. This will be paid by Wiltshire CCG, with Swindon having a separate service, also provided by Harmoni.

The evaluation of the bidders for 111 involved GPs, patient representatives, and officials from NHS Wiltshire, the Department of Health and Strategic Health Authority.

The NHS Wiltshire spokesman said: “Harmoni’s tender demonstrated it is the supplier which can best meet the service specification and provide the quality of service we require for patients, while delivering good value for money.”

Harmoni’s service, based in Bristol, starts in April.

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