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'Cheap GPs' plan alert

GPs are warning that a new breed of emergency care practitioners must not be used as a cheap alternative to doctors.

The caution came after the Department of Health opened a consultation on a curriculum and competence framework for the practitioners.

ECPs are to provide emergency assessment, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare, primarily out-of-hours.

Under the proposals, they would receive 1,000 hours' training of which a minimum of 300 would be theory-based and pitched at degree level. The remaining 700 hours would be based in a clinical setting.

ECPs would be expected to recognise substance misuse, obtain blood samples, advise on reducing the risk of heart disease, administer medications and obtain consent for clinical interventions, among other skills.

A new statutory body will eventually be set up to regulate the profession.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said the GPC had no objection to skillmix, but warn-ed: 'There is a big risk if these particular professionals are seen to be a cheaper option than having a fully trained doctor in post.'

Dr Krishna Korlipara, president of the CMEDS GP co-operative and a GP in Bolton, said: 'My concern is that they may be presented as an all-singing, all dancing alternative to doctors.'

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