Calls for urgent out-of-hours review

The GPC is calling for a review of out-of-hours care after data obtained from PCTs showed that to four out of 10 services fail to meet national standards.

Figures from 92 out of 152 PCTs, obtained by the Liberal Democrat Party through the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 42 per cent failed to answer calls in the required time.

A total of 27 per cent were not hitting targets for starting emergency face-to-face consultations fast enough, and a third of PCTs failed to start telephone clinical assessments quickly enough.

In addition, three PCTs - Lincolnshire Teaching, West Sussex and Redbridge - were found to be unable to guarantee a GP consultation when clinically appropriate.

Some 23 per cent of providers failed to meet the requirement to send details of out-of-hours consultations to the patient's GP practice by 8am.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'These figures do not surprise me and they add further weight to the argument that the government urgently needs to review out-of-hours provision.'

He said a key factor in the poor figures was that not enough services were GP-led and felt that many PCT-run services and those run by private companies 'were just not up to the job'.

'Not having a GP available is a problem and what is happening with lots of these services is that they are impersonal and do not have the level of GP involvement that is needed,' he added.

Dr Prasad Rao, chairman of GP co-operative North Staffordshire Urgent Care, said he was not surprised by the findings and agreed more GP involvement in services was needed.

'In North Staffordshire GPs have been running these services for years, have systems in place and a good, integrated team,' he said. 'Many PCTs are new to this and are not using GPs. As a result standards slip and the service being offered is not as good.'

The Liberal Democrats have ruled out stripping poor quality providers of their contracts, instead favouring an elected health board system, whereby the electorate can have the power to vote out members where services such as out-of-hours are failing.

The DoH was not available for comment.

Unanswered calls
42% of out-of-hours providers do not answer calls within set time limits.

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