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MPs slam out-of-hours 'shambles'

The shift of out-of-hours responsibility from GPs to PCTs was 'shambolic', 'amateurish' and resulted in a 'costly mess', an influential committee of MPs has concluded.

MPs on the Commons Public Accounts committee also accus-ed the Department of Health of failing to give PCTs adequate guidance on how to set up new services.

The condemnation came as the committee questioned acting NHS chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers on a recent damning National Audit Office report on out-of-hours.

Austin Mitchell, the veteran Labour MP, said: 'It all looks pretty amateurish. You sat in as an observer in the negotiations and PCTs were given inadequate guidance.'

Alan Williams, Labour MP for Swansea West, accused the department of creating a 'negotiating mirage' because it failed to tell PCTs the £6,000 GPs gave up to drop 24-hour responsibility bore no resemblence to the actual cost of covering their out-of-hours.

Sir Ian admitted the department had failed by not defining whether out-of-hours services covered urgent or unscheduled care.

He said: 'It's fair to say there were teething problems.'

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