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Camden Council launches probe into out-of-hours GP provider Harmoni after death of baby Axel Peanberg King

PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 July 2013 | UPDATED: 10:45 04 July 2013

Linda Peanberg King with chair of Camden Keep our NHS public campaign group Candy Unwin at the Camden Council meeting

Linda Peanberg King with chair of Camden Keep our NHS public campaign group Candy Unwin at the Camden Council meeting

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The mother of a baby who died while in the care of Camden’s private out-of-hours GP provider has welcomed the council’s decision to launch an inquiry into the service - exactly eight months after the tragedy.

Members of Camden Council’s health scrutiny committee have agreed to conduct a full investigation into out-of-hours GP service provider Harmoni, following the death of baby Axel Peanberg King last November.

The seven-week-old baby boy 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 the urgent care provider.

The move follows the publication of a critical Care Quality Commission (CQC) report which found there were “not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs” at Harmoni’s North Central London service.

On Tuesday, Axel’s mother, Linda Peanberg King, addressed councillors and said the appointment of Harmoni did not suggest the health of citizens came first.

Her comments followed a deputation from the Camden branch of the Keep Our NHS Public demanding an inquiry in to the running of Harmoni’s out-of-hours service and how the contract was awarded by the NHS.

Committee chairman Cllr John Bryant said a panel would be set-up to look at the service as a whole and evidence would be taken from relevant representatives from Harmoni and Camden Keep Our NHS Public.

He said it would also look at the impact of the service on A&E performance in hospitals.

The inquiry will begin in autumn, with a full report published in the new year.

Speaking to the Ham&High after the meeting, Mrs Peanberg King said: “My husband and I really welcome this inquiry.

“At the time of his inquest we suspected everything pointed to there being faults within the system through which Harmoni operated their service and the Care Quality Commission’s report was the first time it was made official.

“Because of the systematic failure it’s really important to address this because otherwise other people will die.”

New legislation under the Health and Social Care Act means that representatives from Harmoni will have to attend the panel’s hearings and answer questions.

Mrs Peanberg King added: “I think the councillors seem very well aware of what’s going on by the fact they emphasised the importance of Harmoni attending these meetings.

“They are keen to dig deeper and now it’s not just anecdotal, it’s going to be emphasised in a report.”

She said private health companies which have to make a profit did not “belong in the public sector”, but said if they were to be employed by clinical commissioning groups, they must put quality of care above reducing costs.

“I want all contractors to provide an adequate service and I think Axel’s case illustrates very well Harmoni can’t supply that,” she said.

Harmoni says it is working closely with health commissioners to improve the service.

Candy Unwin, chairwoman of Camden Keep Our NHS Public, said: “We are glad they have agreed to do that, because the report form the CQC is so damaging of the service Harmoni provided.

“They heard of Linda’s own harrowing experience, so it will be good to find out whether Harmoni has increased the number of doctors and to make sure systems are in place to monitor the service.”

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