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GPs in dark on plans for opting out

Pulse's out-of-hours survey reveals GPs' fears about when PCOs take over responsibility ­ Nerys Hairon reports

One GP in five fears their primary care organisation will not be ready to take over out-of-hours care by the deadline of January 2005.

A Pulse survey of 1,168 GPs found practices have been left in the dark by PCOs and do not know what alternative services are being considered for when they opt out.

The findings came as Leeds LMC reported its strategic health authority had instructed PCOs to delay the opt-out until January, even if they were ready to take over earlier this year.

The GPC called on PCOs to make the transfer of out-of-hours responsibility a priority.

Some 42 per cent of GPs said it was unlikely they would be able to opt out before December. A further 5 per cent said they had no idea when they would be able to opt out and had not received any information from their trust.

Dr Mark Downs, a GP in Fulham, west London, predicted the transfer would be 'an organisational shambles'.

He said: 'I have no idea how far advanced the trust is. They might well have got something but as yet we have heard nothing.'

Dr Sue Herod, a GP in Bristol and member of Bristol Doctors on Call, said GPs working for the co-op had had no feedback from Bristol South and West PCT on the trust's plans for the opt-out, even though many were willing to carry on working shifts.

Dr Martin Seely, a GP in Trafford, Greater Manchester, said his trust had 'not got anything up and running yet'. He added: 'I think they are going to try to use Primecare but they haven't got any other ideas.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, medical secretary of Leeds LMC, said advice from West Yorkshire SHA to PCTs to delay the opt-out until the 11th hour was 'unhelpful'.

Trusts had been ready to take over on October 1.

He said: 'I think they were advising PCTs they should use the maximum amount of time to make sure they are prepared to take on the responsibility.'

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd many GPs were concerned because they had expected to opt out in April.

'It will become a fact by January next year,' he said.

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