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GPs are warned to avoid long out-of-hours tie-in

GPs could delay their out-of-hours opt-out and jeopardise PCO plans to take over services if they sign contracts with deputising services which tie them in beyond next April, trusts warn.

The warning came after GPs received 12-month renewal contracts from Primecare which specified they could only terminate early if their PCO paid out the remaining period.

A contract seen by Pulse stated: 'Early termination is subject to the PCO purchasing the devolved out-of-hours services from Primecare, at the same monthly fixed charge or higher, until the expiration of the contract term.'

Trusts said the deals would starve them of cash to take over out-of-hours and could delay all GPs in their area from opting out.

Brighton and Hove City PCT said Primecare was trying to get some of the 80 GPs it covers to sign 12-month contracts from January next year.

Terry Baker, director of primary care and governance at the trust, said it had advised practices to get a shorter deal: 'A six-month contract would not delay the opt-out but a 12-month one would.'

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd said GPs should refuse to sign. 'I am sure Primecare will not refuse to look after patients,' he said. 'I would certainly advise not to sign contracts for beyond April. It could delay GPs being able to opt out.'

Primecare medical director Dr Mike Sadler said the contracts were 'more flexible' and were needed so it could plan services. 'We can't plan a service on the basis that people might leave us in three months' time,' he added.

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