A NEW organisation being introduced at the end of the month aims to turn around a GP service for Somerset patients who become ill outside surgery hours.

Devon Doctors is recruiting GPs for when it takes over from current provider Vocare, which the Care Quality Commission deemed to be offering an "unacceptable" service.

Bosses at the incoming organisation are confident they will meet the needs of the population of Somerset from bases in Taunton, Minehead, Bridgwater, Yeovil and Shepton Mallet hospitals.

Devon Doctors medical director Dr Mark Eggleton said: "We run a well-thought of service in Devon and the CQC came and had a look at our set up. Both sides felt very positive.

"What we need to do is take with us the people currently working in the Somerset service.

"In Devon, we're able to fill our clinical rotas. There have been some problems in Somerset and we've engaged with GPs here who may wish to participate."

Somerset County Gazette:

Dr Mark Eggleton.

Dr Eggleton said that while Vocare had to make a return for its shareholders, Devon Doctors is not-for-profit, meaning all available cash goes into the clinical service.

He added: "It's really exciting for us - a huge opportunity.

"We ran a similar service in Cornwall and turned that around.

"We have all the infrastructure for Somerset as we'll be using the kit from Cornwall."

Vocare will for the time being continue to run the 111 NHS helpline for people with urgent medical concerns, although the CQC has told the firm it needs improvement.

Both services will go out to tender later this year, with Devon Doctors intending to bid for the joint contract.

A Devon Doctors spokesman said: "Because of what we've inherited, there are a lot of GPs who might have done out-of-hours work who may have become disillusioned. We have to create an environment where the role is enjoyable and manageable."

A Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: "Vocare continues to provide Somerset’s NHS 111 service and the GP out-of-hours service, known as Somerset Doctors Urgent Care.

"The management of the Somerset GP out-of-hours service will, on an interim basis, transfer to Devon Doctors by April 30.

"Both the 111 and GP out-of-hours services are due to be re-commissioned within the next 12 months as part of a complete re-design of the county’s urgent and emergency services."

The CCG is reassuring patients it is safe to use both services.

Vocare managing director Andy Gregory said: "Patients should be assured that our call handling and outcomes performance are among the best nationally.

"Our focus is now on achieving a smooth transfer of the GP out-of-hours service to Devon Doctors following our recent mutual decision with the Somerset CCG.

"We're working closely with our employees to ensure a smooth transition for both them and the patients we serve."