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GPs are looking forward to an out-of-hours cash bonanza this Christmas with rates as high as £120 an hour across the holiday period.

LMCs said GPs were queuing up to work shifts, with slots in most areas already filled and waiting lists for work next year. But GPs in the

minority of areas still to opt out have raised 'disquiet' over being made to wait until the last minute.

The Department of Health said 91 per cent of trusts had taken over out-of-hours responsibility, leaving 21 PCTs to go live over the holiday.

Somerset LMC said trusts were doubling standard rates to an 'enhanced' level of £120 an hour for the four days over Christmas.

LMC secretary Dr Harry Yoxall said the only problem in the area was filling weekend days leading up to Christmas as GPs willing to do on-call wanted the more lucrative shifts.

Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC said there was a waiting list for non-holiday shifts at £75 an hour and all £100-an-hour Christmas slots were filled.

Bexley LMC chair Dr Mickey Adagra said the co-op service, which was set to be taken over by PCTs from December 29, had already filled all Christmas shifts. Rates in the area are more than doubling to a maximum of £85 an hour because of the transfer.

But some areas where rates were not as high reported problems filling some shifts.

Dr Jimmy Courtney, secretary of Eastern LMC and a GP in Holywood, County Down, said £55-an-hour evening shifts in early January were proving difficult to fill.

In Gloucestershire, GPs have to wait until January 4 to give up responsibility.

Gloucestershire LMC secretary Dr Michael Uprichard, a sessional GP in the county, said there had been some 'discontent and disquiet' about the timing.

'We felt it was important for patient care to assist PCTs in this transition period, but the GPs are not particularly happy about having [to wait] to hand over until January 4.'

By Nerys Hairon

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