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40% hike in on-call cover

GPs using deputising service Primecare face fee hikes of up to 40 per cent for out-of-hours cover when they renew their contracts.

The company, formed from the takeover of Healthcall by Nestor, admitted last week that it would have to put fees up by an average of 20 per cent in the coming year.

Iain Anderson, managing director of Primecare's primary care division, said increases will range from 4 per cent to as much as 40 per cent for some of the firm's 10,500 GPs.

He blamed the fee rises on higher rates being demanded by part-time GPs and locums ­ up 42 per cent from levels two years ago.

Mr Anderson told Pulse: 'The market has forced us to do this. The money will go back into doctor pay ­ this is not about Primecare increasing rates to increase profit.'

Dr Navin Shankar, a singlehanded GP in Luton, Bedfordshire, said he was considering resigning after learning his fees for 2003 were rising from £11,000 to £17,000 for full cover.

He said: 'I could close my branch surgery to save money but then 500 patients would be without a doctor.'

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