A TOTTENHAM MP and Haringey doctors have condemned the decision to drop a not-for-profit care provider which ran into financial difficulties in favour a private company.

Camidoc, which ran out-of-hours doctors services in Haringey, Islington, Hackney, and Camden, has been ditched in favour of Harmoni Ltd after investigation unearthed serious concerns over its management.

The move was labelled “sensible” by some local figures, but doctors and David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, have attacked the health trusts for a “total lack of transparency” over the decision.

Mr Lammy said this week: “They’ve replaced a not-for-profit service run by local people, for local people, with a private provider that has never worked in the local area. Patients are being put at risk by a for-profit company putting cost before care.”

And Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has agreed to investigate the situation, at the behest of Mr Lammy, after more than 180 GPs issued an open letter attacking the move.

Harmoni has been given a nine-month contract to provide the service before a long-term provider is decided, and Crouch End Lib Dem councillor David Winskill called for Camidoc to take stock and aim to back the service again after nine months.

He said: “It is intensely disappointing that the finances got so out of control, and it is difficult to see what other options the commissioning PCTs had.

“But I hope that the GPs within Camidoc will be able to reform senior management and be able to put a bid in next year.”

Camidoc originally won the contract to continue providing out-of-hours care in 2009 after a competitive tendering process. But late last year, it came to the health trusts with concerns about its financial situation.

After an investigation, it emerged a spike in call-outs had forced Camidoc bosses to use doctor pension contributions to prop up the finances of the organsation.

The investigation also declared Camidoc “technically insolvent” owing to its financial problems amid a host of concerns over the way the organisation was being run.

Camidoc's interim chief executive James Hood admitted there were problems at a meeting of Camden Council's Health Scrutiny Committee last week, but described the decision to drop Camidoc in favour of a private firm as a “bit perverse” given the government drive to place commissioning powers into the hands of GPs – as Camidoc already does.

He said of Camidoc's future: “We haven't got a business to run at the moment because we exist to provide the service for these four PCTs. So there is a question over what happens next.

“Members of the Camidoc board and some local GPs are looking to see if at the end of the nine months we can submit a fresh bid, by Camidoc or a similar organisation.”

A legal challenge to the decision has also been lodged by Camidoc, it is understood.

NHS Camden, which led contract negotiations with Camidoc and subsequently Harmoni, said there was no legal obligation to consult over the transfer, but said leading GPs have been kept informed of the developments.

And it rebuffed suggestions the situation would put safety of patients at risk, saying: “Adherence to clinical standards is an ongoing requirement of the contract and will be monitored accordingly, in line with the current arrangements.

“Harmoni has vast experience of providing out-of-hours services and in particular expertise in taking over out-of-hours services in challenging circumstances.”