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Measles epidemic this winter

GPs are warning out-of-hours services could collapse in the new year because thousands of doctors will stop working shifts for new providers.

The alarm came after GPs accused PCTs of 'blackmailing' doctors to fill on-call slots before Christmas or face delays to planned services.

New out-of-hours arrangements in Somerset, Cornwall and Gloucestershire all went live last week only after a last-minute surge of GPs agreeing to fill slots.

Dr Andrew Brooke, a GP in Gloucester, said GPs had bow-ed to pressure after 'threats' to delay the service until January 4. But he said the service was reliant on local GPs and many would stop on-call work when their contractual obligation ended on January 1.

He said: 'They are going ahead in October but with a lot of GPs doing shifts who do not really want to be doing it. What on earth will happen in January when those GPs have no obligation to do this service? GPs have had enough.'

GPs in Cornwall protested they had been 'blackmailed' after co-op KernowDoc said its service would be delayed until December unless 500 slots were filled.

Dr Chris Wilson, a GP in Redruth, said: 'It ended up as threats and blackmail, which is all a bit unfortunate.'

Dr Phil Trevail, vice-chair of Kernowdoc, said an extra '60 or 70' GPs had signed up and it had recruited full-time out-of-hours doctors. But he admitted he had no idea how many GPs would continue working in January.

The National Association of GP Co-operatives said GPs would be 'quite entitled' to re-fuse shifts and trusts would either have to find incentives for GPs or alternative solutions.

By Nerys Hairon

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