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Gold, incentives and meh

GPs face 24-hour urgent call system

By Georgie Hobbs

Lord Darzi is proposing a shake up of out-of-hours care that could put GPs on 24-hour call via a new urgent care number.

His report says the three-digit phone number would 'simplify' access to GPs, particularly for patients with long-term conditions.

Last week, the Conservatives also called for a new emergency number as part of a wider programme that would see out-of-hours care transferred back to GPs.

But Lord Darzi's report stresses that as well as being a number to run alongside 999 enabling people to access urgent care, it would cater for 'busy people' as well.

It says: 'We need to find ways to engage people so that minor symptoms and lifestyle risks are not ignored. In particular, we need to do this for those people less equipped to engage with traditional general practice, who frequently lead busy lives and find it hardest to find time to see their GP.'

But Dr Jonathan Hamling, a GP in Bath, said this was squeezing a metropolitan 'one size fits all' bracket around differing practices across the country.

He said: 'Here in Bath, I wouldn't necessarily feel the issues that are important to Londoners are important to us.'

Although he welcomed greater patient choice, Dr Hamling said diagnoses by multiple out-of-hours GPs could harm patient care: 'It is impossible for any doctor to be available 24 hours, 365 days a year – to suggest otherwise is simply false.

'What everybody wants is safe, confidential access to emergency care, but for social conditions, chronic illness or things that are affected by environment or family factors which their own GP has a knowledge of, then patients will want to see their own GP,' he added.


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