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£6,000 for out-of-hours means GPs will opt out

Most GPs are set to ditch out-of-hours after the contract set a price of £6,000 for the work.

December 31, 2004, has been fixed as the deadline for trusts to give GPs the chance to opt out.

All primary care organisations will then have to take on responsibility for providing care from 6.30pm until 8am on weekdays and cover all weekends and bank holidays.

They will also have to have contingency plans in case of unexpected failure of out-of-hours cover.

GP co-operatives immediately predicted that the pricing would prompt virtually all GPs to ditch the service.

Dr Michael Crow, medical director of Thamesdoc, said: 'Everyone will opt out and we will have to pay the market rate to get people to work out of hours.

'At the moment that rate is £100,000 a year, but within two or three years I can see that going up to £130,000.'

GPs in rural areas who cannot opt out will keep their out-of-hours abatement and get a share of the development fund as part of a new funding package. Full details of the deal will only be revealed when the contract is published this week.

The GPC said trusts could start helping GPs to opt out now to help recruitment, and the legislation to allow GPs to opt out would be in place by April 2004.

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said out-of-hours pricing was a good deal for GPs. 'I think it will mean a lot of older and middle-aged GPs will want to opt out. But a number will continue and some co-ops will continue.'

He added that trusts faced two challenges ­ getting GPs to work out-of-hours and finding the money.

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