Staffing standards ‘not being met’ at Camden and Islington’s out-of-hours care provider Harmoni where baby Axel Peanberg King died

Axel Peanberg King

Axel Peanberg King - Credit: Archant

Response times are not being met due to staff shortages at Camden and Islington’s controversial out-of-hours GP service – which was criticised over the death of a baby last year.

Parents of baby axel who died at the Whittington, Linda Peanberg King and Alistair King at the march

Parents of baby axel who died at the Whittington, Linda Peanberg King and Alistair King at the march to save the hospital on Saturday - Credit: Archant

Response times are not being met due to staff shortages at Camden and Islington’s controversial out-of-hours GP service – which was criticised over the death of a baby last year.

Inspectors from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said in a new report that there are “not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs” at private healthcare firm Harmoni’s north central London service.

The service provides an out-of-hours telephone service, arranges non-emergency appointments with GPs at The Whittington Hospital, and home visits by on-call GPs in both boroughs.

In the report, based on inspections made in March and published last week, the CQC found the provider fell short in the amount of time it took to respond to urgent calls and carry out routine home visits. Around a quarter of all urgent calls were not dealt with by a medical professional inside the 20-minute target.


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The service recently came under fire following the death of seven-week-old Axel Peanberg King, who stopped breathing after allegedly being sent to the back of the queue at Harmoni’s out-of-hours clinic at The Whittington, in Magdala Avenue, Highgate.

A coroner subsequently raised concerns about his treatment at the hands of Harmoni staff.

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Mrs Peanberg King, who lived in Finsbury Park at the time of Axel’s death, said that the doctor who triaged her son had to squeeze him in to an already fully-booked hour of seeing patients.

She added: “Axel died at the beginning of the period that was evaluated, and no changes have been made, in terms of staffing levels. We’re a worst-case example of what can happen when these companies take over.”

Among the staffing issues, CQC inspectors found that doctors had cancelled their shifts 52 times between October and December 2012 – which were the only dates with available data. In a number of cases GPs had failed to provide reasons for cancelling their shifts.

It also recently emerged that three years ago, Dr Fred Kavalier resigned from his position as lead clinician of Harmoni, citing his concerns over the quality and safety of the service.

The CQC inspectors make checks in five different categories, including staffing, and it found all other standards were being met by the company.

It has asked Harmoni to draw up an action plan and will follow up with a surprise inspection in “due course”, it said.

A Harmoni spokesman said that recruiting GPs for services “is a challenge across the country” and added: “It has a robust recruitment process which addresses future recruitment, but also the more immediate needs of filling rotas.

“Part of the process of addressing more immediate needs is sending messages to local GPs which stress the need to fill shifts and is a system which we find works effectively when booking GPs for shifts.”

Harmoni has also put a recruitment advert in the British Medical Journal appealing for local GPs to work with its service.

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