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Independents' Day

GPs left in the lurch over out-of-hours

By Nerys Hairon

Scores of GPs face the prospect of doing their own out-of-hours work for up to six months because Primecare has withdrawn its service.

Up to 130 GPs in Ports-mouth have been left with no cover between April and October after the deputising service gave three months' notice it was pulling out.

Pulse has learnt two practices have threatened to quit the NHS because of the prospect of doing their own out-of-hours.

Primecare gave notice after three primary care trusts ­ Portsmouth City Teaching, East Hampshire and Fareham and Gosport ­ decided last month to set up a new service using local GP co-operative Havant Doctors on Call.

But the co-op will not be able to provide cover for all 280 GPs in the area, including the 130 currently using Primecare, until October.

Primecare medical director Dr Mike Sadler said the company's position had become unviable in Portsmouth and the decision had been made 'with much regret'.

Dr Kevin Tutte said his Portsmouth practice was a doctor down. He said: 'I don't know how we would manage. I hope the PCT will be able to make some arrangements or form an interim co-op.'

Dr Bernard Klemenz said it would be 'impossible' for his practice to do its own out-of-hours.

'We do not know what the options are,' he added.

A spokeswoman for the three PCTs said Primecare had offered its Southampton office to Gosport practices, and all three trusts were still in discussions with GPs to ensure there was 'no gap in the service'.

Similar problems have arisen in at least two other areas. Ellesmere Port Doctors on Call in Cheshire has been forced to take over some home visits for 36 GPs during April and May after a misunderstanding with local trusts led GPs to give notice to Primecare too early.

A group of 20 GPs in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, were forced to set up their own makeshift co-op at Christmas which will run until September this year, after Primecare withdrew.

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