Serco plans to change GP out-of-hours service on hold

Plans to change Cornwall's out-of-hours doctor service have been put on hold.

Serco Health said the aim of introducing a new clinical assessment system known as NHS Pathways was to improve patient care.

But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has criticised the plans, saying between 15 and 20 of its 35 nursing staff could lose their jobs.

The adoption of the new system will now be reviewed by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Serco said Pathways, currently being trialled by a number of NHS trusts across the UK, provided a single point of access to urgent care, meaning patients would only need to make a single call and not have to wait to be called back.

The RCN, however, said patient care would suffer if there was a 40% cut in staffing levels.

It also said staff member who did not lose their jobs would have to reapply for their positions with changes to terms and conditions, which included significant pay cuts.

Serco said it was putting its consultation process on hold and would meet with local RCN representatives to discuss the issues raised.

"We are keen to take full account of the views and thoughts of all interested parties," Serco's regional director Karl Cole said.

Mr Cole said Serco would also consider the comments of people who could be affected by the NHS Pathways system.

The PCT said it welcomed Serco's decision to halt the consultation process.

Dr John Tilbury, the PCT's medical director, said: "While we are supportive of the NHS Pathways system, we want to ensure that the best interests of patients throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are at the heart of any proposed changes."

Serco, which has provided the out-of-hours service since 2006, was awarded another five-year contract last October.

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