HEALTH chiefs have reversed a controversial decision to invite companies to bid for the GP out-of-hours contract in East Lancashire.

The news has been welcomed by campaigners, who feared a tender process would result in a ‘profit-seeking’ firm winning the contract, saying this would impact on patient care.

The overnight and weekend GP service has been run successfully for 20 years by East Lancashire Medical Services (ELMS), a highly regarded group of local doctors and nurses.

Bosses at East Lancashire Clinical Comm-issioning Group (CCG) had intended to put the service out to tender this year, but will now examine the options as part of a wider review of urgent care. The out-of-hours service is still likely to be tendered, but as part of a wider urgent care contract that could include other services such as GP walk-in centres, which could mean ELMS are better positioned to win the deal.

Russ McLean, who runs the Patient Voices Group attached to ELMS, said: “This is brilliant news because ELMS already run several urgent care services in East Lancashire and will be in a good position to bid for any integrated contract.

“It looks like the CCG jumped the gun by signalling their intention to put the contract out to tender. They seem to be making it up as they go along.”

The move to look at an integrated contract mirrors a decision taken last month by Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group.

A spokesman for East Lancashire CCG said: “Clinicians and staff within NHS East Lancashire CCG have worked closely over recent weeks to discuss and agree how we can better develop in and out of hours services following national guidance we received regarding access to primary care services.”