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Chaperones must all be trained, says report

GPs are shunning out-of-hours work because of low hourly rates leaving many shift rotas unfilled, sparking fears over quality of patient care.

As many PCTs prepare to take over cover next month, hundreds of shift slots still remain empty, with GPs objecting that rates of £50 an hour for a weekday evening shift are too low.

The National Association of GP Co-operatives warned it was 'inevitable' that patient care would suffer unless trusts put rates up to entice GPs.

Some GPs are deliberately holding out until the last minute to commit, in the hope that trusts desperate to fill rotas will increase their rates.

Locums said they were reluctant to do on-call work where night and evening shifts paid less than their day rate.

Devon LMC chief executive Dr Peter Jolliffe said around half the shifts were still unfilled in the county, even though the service is due to go live on October 1. In Torbay GPs were waiting for rates to rise before committing to shifts, he added.

Dr Nigel Watson, joint chief executive of Wessex

LMCs, said hundreds of shifts were still empty in Dorset, with no prospect of PCTs offering a rise despite planning to go live next month.

NAGPC vice-chair Dr Pra-sad Rao said: 'Patient care will suffer. Nurses and NHS Direct alone can't cope. It will have a grave effect on A&E.'

His co-operative, North Staffordshire Doctors on Call, will offer hourly rates from £70 to at least £110 for overnight cover. 'Anything less than that is not good enough,' Dr Rao said.

Scottish locum GP Dr Robbie Coull said he was one of a number of GPs turning down on-call work due to low rates. 'If the average locum rate is around £60 an hour during the day, why should we work for less for a night shift?' he said.

Fife LMC chair Dr David Alexander said the local health board was having trouble filling weekend shifts and patients were experiencing delays with NHS 24.

GPC Northern Ireland chair Dr Brian Dunn said: 'GPs are not happy about rates of pay.

By Joe Lepper

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