24/7 diagnostic services call

Diagnostic services must be made available 24 hours a day to accompany out-of-hours care, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has warned.

Its report calls for change in the way medical care is provided out of hours and says that without such diagnostic services many patients go to hospital unnecessarily.

'The Right Person in the Right Setting - First Time' recommends that diagnostic services such as X-rays, scanners and blood tests be made available to accompany care. This could enable GPs to make 'a competent clinical decision' and 'deliver appropriate treatment first time'.

Services should be made available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist hospitals and A&E wards, the report says.

The RCP also recommends a local 'hub' with a single well-publicised phone number, to direct patients to the most appropriate service.

Life-saving intervention, specialist services and complex diagnostics should be provided across local networks rather than just hospitals.

The RCGP was critical of the report, saying GPs were being blamed for a lack of urgent care despite poor commissioning by PCTs.

RCGP chairman Professor Mayur Lakhani said: 'We are angry this report is being used - wrongly in our view - to criticise GPs.

'Hard questions need to be asked about the commissioning ability of some PCTs.'

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