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Out-of-hours service is failing

14th March 2007

The new out-of-hours service is failing to meet targets despite costing substantially more to run, says a new report.

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The Public Accounts Committee said the shake-up in 2004, which saw 90% of GPs opt out of providing out-of-hours cover, left the NHS paying more without meeting key access targets. Just one in 10 Primary Care Trusts are assessing patients within 20 minutes of an urgent call.

It said the handover had been ‘shambolic’ with PCTs inexperienced and poorly prepared to take over responsibility in 2004.

GPs were the only winners, said the committee, who had gained their weekends and evenings for a loss of just £6,000 a year. The money had not been enough to fund the replacement services which use a combination of GP cooperatives and private providers.

The out-of-hours service, which sees nine million patients a year, also cost the NHS £70m more than predicted in its first year.

The government has responded to the criticism by introducing plans to carry out random spot checks to improve services in under performing areas.


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