A Norfolk based family is suing an out-of-hours GP provider, formerly part of Harmoni (now owned by Care UK), and one of its nurses, after neither will admit liability and pay compensation for the avoidable death of their 19- year-old daughter.

Clare Secker, mother of one, died of bronchopneumonia in December 2008 after the nurse working for the out-ofhours GP telephone service did not arrange for a doctor consultation, but instead recommended paracetamol and fluids. Clare’s fatal condition, which could have been treated with antibiotics, therefore went undiagnosed and resulted in her death.

The nurse has admitted breaching her duty by failing to arrange a GP appointment but maintains that her employment contract states insurance was in place to indemnify her. Harmoni, however, has responded that its insurance excludes responsibility for negligence by nurses. Further, as the service was provided by a private contractor, the state-backed NHS insurer (the NHS Litigation Authority) will not offer a compensation payment either.

Due to the deadlock and lack of compensation, the family has issued proceedings to determine the liability question.

Questions over patient safety from such privatised services will no doubt ensure this test case is eagerly followed. However more significantly, it may fuel the fear that as more NHS services are contracted out to private providers, a loss of accountability will occur.