Thursday, April 10, 2008

Return out-of-hours care 'to GPs'

GPs should reclaim responsibility for out-of-hours care in England,
an influential group of NHS staff says.

The NHS Alliance said patients had lost confidence in the care,
often provided by private firms since the GP contract
saw 90% of family doctors opt out.

It said GPs should club together to take charge of night and weekend care,
although this could mean buying in nurses, paramedics and doctors.
Under the terms of the 2004 GP contract, family doctors were allowed
to opt out of out-of-hours care.

The changes have led to a surge in complaints and have prompted the
Tories to call for GPs to take back responsibility in a similar way as the
NHS Alliance is suggesting.

The group, which represents NHS professionals working outside hospitals,
including some GPs, said there was confusion over the complex arrangements
now in place.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Mike Dixon said patients were often presented
with several choices, including NHS Direct, walk-in centres, A&E and
out-of-hours providers, and did not know when to go where.

"We have a system whereby there is a void when GP services
close for the day.

"I think many doctors are concerned about this."