The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

Out-of-hours GP firm to face double probe, as mother of baby who died joins calls for investigation

    Linda Peanberg King and Candy Udwin

    Linda Peanberg King and Candy Udwin

    Published: 4 July, 2013
    by TOM FOOT

    THE private company that provides out-of-hours cover for Camden’s doctors is to be investigated on two fronts after a special Town Hall inquiry panel was set up and NHS bosses revealed they are launching a separate probe.

    Harmoni, the country’s biggest out-of-hours provider, was criticised for having dangerously low staffing levels in an official report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in May.

    The company was criticised following the death of seven-month-old Axel Peanberg King in the Whittington Hospital in November – two months after the New Journal revealed how Harmoni had won a new two-year contract despite scoring lower on quality than a group of local GPs.

    Axel’s mother Linda told the health scrutiny panel on Tuesday: “Tomorrow is exactly eight months since my son died under Harmoni’s care. At the time of his inquest, we suspected their were systemic faults. The CQC report underlined those issues. I am here to prevent this from happening again.

    “How Harmoni won the contract does not suggest that the health of the citizens is coming first.”

    She said Axel died after repeated calls to Harmoni doctors and staff who were either too busy or missed clear signs that he was severely unwell.

    While a St Pancras Coroner’s Court inquest into Axel’s death heard there were no problems with staffing, a CQC report published in May found otherwise.

    Jane Ray, Camden’s CQC compliance manager, told the meeting they had found “staffing problems” and that the “biggest concern was the number of doctors”.

    The calls for a Town Hall inquiry panel to be set up came from Candy Udwin, chairwoman Camden’s Keep Our NHS Public, who said: “It seems to me that it is the role of the scrutiny committee to find out if the service has improved.”

    In a separate statement to the committee, Samantha Jones, director of commissioning and service transition at Camden Clinical Commissioning Group – the new GP-run body in charge of Camden’s NHS funding – told the meeting: “We are just in the process of appointing independent providers to conduct a review of the Harmoni service. That should start work in the next two weeks and we will have a report in the autumn which will fit into your timetable for your panel of inquiry.”

    Committee chairman Cllr John Bryant said that under government health reforms the inquiry panel would be able to summon Harmoni bosses to the Town Hall.

    He added: “I have every intention of asking as many awkward questions as possible.”

    A spokesman for Harmoni said: “Harmoni welcomes, and will fully co-operate with, any review into local out-of-hours services.

    “If these reviews identify areas for improvement in the service we will, naturally, readily discuss how these improvements can be implemented.”


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