DoH undervalued out-of-hours cost by £70m annually

The GPC has rejected claims that GPs were the only ones to benefit from the out-of-hours opt-out deal in 2004.

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum
GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum

MPs believe that the DoH underestimated the cost of out-of-hours by £70 million a year when it allowed GPs to opt out for £6,000 on average.

The transfer of 24-hour responsibility to PCTs was 'shambolic' because of underfunding and a failure to define the service trusts should provide, according to a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. It says that GPs are the only people to benefit from the change, a charge that GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum has refuted, saying that the old system was unsustainable.

Less than half of PCTs are meeting targets for speed of access to advice or treatment, the report reveals and it says that the £6,000-per-GP opt-out fee was less than half the actual cost of providing out-of-hours services.

'This sum was the outcome of a negotiation that was not rigorously conducted by the DoH, and which was based on a serious underestimate of PCTs' likely costs,' the report says.

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