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GP alarmed by working longer or being poorer

Gloomy predictions about how new out-of-hours services would cope over the Christmas and New Year period appear to have been unfounded.

GPs from around the country have reported the extended bank holiday periods passed off without major incident, despite significant increases in demand in most areas.

Dr Ian Millington, secretary of Morgannwg LMC, said the new Swansea SOS GP co-op had 'bedded down well'

in its first year: 'We have been lucky in the sense that

there hasn't been an influenza


He added: 'My impression was that there was a lot of telephone traffic. The new triage takes longer, but overall it's what you would expect.

'One or two of the GPs may have worked a little longer. The response to the demand is a credit to the people working in the service.'

Some providers reported they had dealt with as many patients in the seven days of Christmas and New Year as they had in the whole of the previous month.

In West Hampshire, the LMC said demand trebled over Christmas, causing long waits for triage.

Shifts in some areas came close to being unfilled, which could have put extra pressure on already stretched services.

Dr Craig Wakeham, a GP in Cerne Abbas, Dorset, said the 'failure' of some GPs to work shifts had caused some problems in the area. 'We have a professional duty to support primary care ­ not just ourselves but our colleagues such as the nurses in the minor injuries unit and the drivers,' he said.

He added that on Christmas Day alone there had been 400 calls to Dorset Emergency Care Service, which took over from the GP co-op in October. Demand rose to more than 1,000 calls on December 27 and 28. The figure compared with 8,000 calls in the whole of November.

But while GPs working out-of-hours were under extra pressure, many doctors were enjoying the novelty of an uninterrupted Christmas for the first time in years.

Dr John Glasspool, a GP in Southampton, said: 'I'm delighted because I didn't have to do it. It was my first Christmas off for four days with my wife in 24 years.'

By Rob Finch

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