NHS Gloucestershire CCG has advertised this week for initial expressions of interest from healthcare service providers to run the county’s out of hours primary care service from 1 April 2015.

Urgent Care clinical commissioning lead, Dr Caroline Bennett said that the CCG wants to ensure that there is ‘continuous improvement’ in out of hours services for patients ‘building on what works well.’

The CCG cannot extend the current contract any longer as procurement legislation requires the organisation to go through a tender process as there are a range of out of hours service providers in the market.

Dr Bennett explained what the CCG, as commissioner of the service, would be looking for:

“We want potential providers to demonstrate how they would develop innovative NHS services – improving the way services work when people need them.

We would expect the same key features of the service to be in place so patients will not notice any major changes. However, we want to build on what works well and ensure a safe, effective and timely service in to the future.

We know from patients that what they really want is joined up care and treatment with the best possible co-ordination between different parts of the service. This includes strong links between community based services and the large hospitals.

We recognise that local out of hours services have been well supported over the years by local GPs and nurses and we would want this to continue.”

The CCG will be able to consider responses from NHS organisations, as well as a range of other healthcare providers, as part of the procurement.

After evaluating the responses to the initial expressions of interest in May, full tender documents, including the full service specification will be sent to shortlisted bidders in early June.

The evaluation of detailed responses from the shortlisted providers will take place during the Summer with the provider of the service being announced in the Autumn.

The Out of Hours service is currently run by Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. It includes face to face medical consultations with doctors and nurses at out of hours medical centres and a mobile visiting service.