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Mother of baby who died in care of private company backs calls to award NHS contracts ‘on quality not price’

PUBLISHED: 14:06 09 February 2015

Linda and baby Axel Peanberg King

Linda and baby Axel Peanberg King

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The mother of a baby who died while in the care of a private healthcare company has backed calls by Camden councillors to ensure commissioning for NHS contracts is this time done on “quality rather than price”.

Linda Peanberg King supported “wholeheartedly” Camden Council’s health scrutiny committee’s recent demands, made on January 29, that commissioners give greater weight to quality when awarding the new and enlarged £50million GP out-of-hours (OOH) contract later this year.

The running of the current contract – awarded to private healthcare provider Harmoni (now Care UK) – came in for criticism after the death of baby Axel Peanberg King in November 2012.

Seven-week-old Axel died when a cold which developed into pneumonia went untreated despite repeated visits and desperate calls to the Harmoni-run OOH GP service.

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

The service was also under scrutiny after a sick newborn baby was left to wait for more than an hour in a late-night GP surgery on Christmas Eve in 2012 – only for the parents to be told the doctor had already gone.

It also emerged that in 2010, Dr Fred Kavalier resigned from his position as lead clinician of Harmoni, citing his concerns over the quality and safety of the service.

In December, Ms Peanberg King filed papers at the High Court suing the Harmoni doctor who assessed the baby at the Whittington Hospital. Dr Takhar has until mid-February to submit defence papers.

Ms Peanberg King told the Ham&High: “When Harmoni won the contract they had scored lower on quality than other bidders, but higher on price. I absolutely support the councillors’ pressure to place more emphasis on quality rather than price. I do not believe profit-driven organisations belong in the NHS.”

Later this year, Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will procure a new and much-enlarged OOH contract combined with the 111 NHS phone service, to cover five boroughs.

Health campaigners told councillors at the health scrutiny committee last Thursday they feared a much larger contract “would favour” private companies rather than local GP providers.

In an effort to reassure councillors, Caz Sayer, chair of Camden CCG, said: “Some very important lessons were learnt through the last [procurement] process. We would hope not to repeat those [mistakes] again.”

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