HSE halts tender process for GP service


The Health Service Executive (HSE) has terminated a tender process aimed at securing a company or group to provide out-of-hours general practitioner services in north Dublin - one of the main points of the Government's 10-point plan to tackle overcrowding in hospitals in accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

The HSE said yesterday that the submissions received during the tender process did not meet the quality standards required.

It said it would now pursue alternative arrangements to put the service in place.

The HSE said that during the tender process, its most important requirement - that patients be seen and treated by fully-qualified GPs - had not been met. Informed sources said some of the tenderers sought to have services provided by locum GPs or by non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) who had not undergone specific general practitioner training programmes. This was unacceptable to the HSE.

Dr Ray Walley, chairman of the North Dublin Out-of-Hours Committee, one of the groups which submitted a tender, said last night he was shocked at the HSE decision.

He described as a blatant lie any suggestion that his group had sought to use inexperienced NCHDs. He said that all GP co-operatives used locums but that these had to meet criteria set down by the HSE.

Dr Walley said there was a manpower crisis in north Dublin and that on occasions local GPs would not be able to provide some out-of-hours shifts.

He said the 220 GPs in north Dublin wanted to see a properly-resourced out-of-hours service provided on a co-operative basis similar to that in place in many parts of the country.

Labour Party health spokeswoman Liz McManus said the abandonment of the tender process would have major repercussions for A&E services in north Dublin and that it represented a major climbdown from the objectives set out in the Tánaiste's 10-point plan. She said it would lead to even more stress on A&E services in Beaumont and Mater hospitals.

The HSE said it would now immediately engage directly in wider consultation with groups which could supply out-of-hours GP services. It said it was confident this could be achieved.

"The service envisaged by the HSE for north Dublin will be provided from fully-equipped clinical centres, staffed by on-duty general practitioners, who will be supported by nurses, administrative staff and drivers. The service will operate each evening, and throughout the day at weekends and on bank holidays."