GP workforce warning as MPs highlight out-of-hours pressure

Primary care out-of-hours providers are increasingly struggling to attract enough GPs, and NHS England must develop a 'model for the GP workforce' immediately, MPs have warned.

GP out-of-hours: MPs highlight pressure on service (Photo: Christopher Jones)

In a report on GP out-of-hours services in England, MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee warned that urgent care services were fragmented and in need of redesign.

Wide variations in cost between GP out-of-hours providers cannot be fully explained by NHS England, the report warned, casting doubt on the value for money of the services.

Too little is being done to ensure conflict of interest concerns are addressed in the commissioning of out-of-hours care by CCGs, the report added.

GPs working hard

GP leaders said the profession was working hard to maintain services in the face of underfunding and a declining workforce.

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said policymakers must ‘get a grip’ on fragmented urgent care services that were confusing to the public.

‘Many GPs are working hard to deliver out of hours to patients, but they are being undermined by an increasingly chaotic and underfunded system.

‘Over the past 10 years, policymakers have allowed a confusing array of urgent care options to emerge, including NHS 111 walk-in centres, traditional GP out-of-hours services and more recently the Challenge Fund pilots that provide limited, short-term funding for some practices to open longer in some areas.

‘The result is that the public is unsure of where to access urgent care.’

Policymakers told to 'get a grip'

‘It is important that policy makers get a grip on this problem and properly integrate services. We also need a proper programme of investment that gives GP services the staff and resources so that they can give the public the level of care they deserve.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘Out-of-hours GP services in the main are very good, so it is frustrating that the hard work and commitment of many GPs across the country is once again coming into question.’

She pointed out that the CQC had found most GP out-of-hours services were safe and effective.

‘What is necessary in order to improve services is more GPs,’ she said.

A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘GPs are working incredibly hard, and for less than the cost of a cinema ticket they provide everyone in this country with year-round access to out-of-hours GP and 111 services. What’s more the real terms cost of doing so has been coming down year by year.’

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