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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Answering the call

29th March 2007

Is there anything that GP out-of-hours service providers aren’t responsible for, asks John Harrison from Northern Doctors Urgent Care.

Consulting Room

Out-of-hours services providers have found themselves publicly blamed for a range of NHS ills: increases in 999 calls, increases in accident and emergency attendance and increases in GP salaries, to name but a few, he writes in the Health Service Journal.

A range of providers are being used from private companies, to GP cooperatives, primary care trusts, ambulance trusts and social enterprises such as his. Can they all be failing? He asks. Many are not. His service exceeds targets and already uses an audit toolkit, like that introduced by the Royal College of GPs. But to get this quality, the NHS has to pay for it and not be ‘seduced by knock-down prices’.

‘Unfortunately we have also seen the consequences of this. And quite often it doesn't lead to lower costs when the combined cost of other local service providers, including A&E and in-hours services, is taken into account.’ He writes.

And those rises in 999 calls? They increased before the GP contract changes, he says, and many can be traced to well meaning mobile phone wielding passers-by reporting the same incident.

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