Search

Camden councillors warned ‘more lives could be at risk’ from Harmoni out-of-hours GP service

PUBLISHED: 13:30 11 October 2013

Candy Unwin and John Lipetz outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Candy Unwin and John Lipetz outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

The mother of a seven-week-old baby who died while in the care of out-of-hours GP service provider Harmoni joined campaigners to warn councillors further lives could be at serious risk unless the firm’s staffing problems are rectified by the peak winter period.

Linda Peanberg King, joined by members of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), issued the warning to Camden councillors at a health scrutiny panel on Tuesday.

Campaigners submitted evidence which they claim shows Harmoni’s out-of-hours service has suffered long waiting times and a shortage of properly trained medical staff since the provider took over the contract in 2010.

Councillors on the panel said they would be pressuring the company’s bosses to provide assurances patients would not be left at risk as demands on the out-of-hours service increased over the Christmas period.

The council probe comes almost a year after the death of baby Axel Peanberg King.

He died at the Harmoni Centre at the Whittington Hospital when a cold which developed into pneumonia went untreated despite repeated visits to doctors employed by Harmoni.

A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March found Harmoni failed to reach national targets, including not having enough “qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs”.

The firm is said to have been trying to fill the gaps in staffing by sending GPs text messages asking for help and by offering them £1,350 to work just one shift.

The tactics have been described by campaigners as proof that the firm is “desperate” and that staffing problems may not be rectified in time for the peak winter period.

Camden KONP chairman Candy Udwin said: “If the out-of- hours service is failing it will have the knock-on effect of more people in need of urgent care turning up at hospital A&Es, and that could have a serious effect on the time it takes to be seen and get treated.”

Despite evidence submitted by the authors of the CQC report on Tuesday suggesting Harmoni was “making progress”, councillors said they hoped the panel’s findings would be used to determine how contracts are awarded in the future.

Cllr John Bryant, committee chairman, said: “I’ve always argued when handing out private contracts we should emphasise more on quality than on cost.”

As part of the panel’s investigation, councillors say they will also be looking at recent events in Hackney after GPs reclaimed control of the borough’s out-of-hours service from Harmoni.

David Tee, Harmoni’s regional director, said the CQC report found staffing was a “moderate not major concern” and that it “at no point suggested services were unsafe”.

He added: “We enter the autumn winter period with a strong, stable service underpinned by improved staffing levels and clinial oversight.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Hampstead conservationists fear a half-acre portion of the Heath could get built on if it falls into the wrong hands at a controversial auction on Monday.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Barnet Council’s budget gap could rise to an estimated £62million by March 2024 if action is not taken, the town hall heard on Monday.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Two teenage moped riders from Maida Vale have been jailed for life after murdering charity youth worker Abdul Samad during a violent robbery spree.

Friday, June 15, 2018

This year’s Hampstead Summer Festival will again feature the “Picture the Heath” painting competition.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A paramedic from West Hampstead received a special award after heroically saving 30 people from a fire.

Friday, June 15, 2018

An exhibition celebrating Camden’s connections to the women’s suffrage movement opened last night at Holborn Local Studies and Archive Centre in Theobalds Road.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Potentially life-saving breast cancer screening check-ups for women in Camden have been delayed due to a shortage of specialist mammographers to carry out the service.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Wembley Sailing Club is hosting a Push the Boat Out event on Sunday May 20, where those interested in taking up the sport are invited to experience the club in action.

Preparing your child in advance for school will go a long way towards ensuring the very best start for your child.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now