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Independents' Day

Opt-out GPs fear for safety of patients

GPs fear patients' safety will be put in jeopardy after their out-of-hours responsibility is transferred.

A Pulse survey of 1,168 GPs found 62 per cent thought patients would be 'less safe' when primary care organisations took over night and weekend cover.

Half of the GPs ranked plummeting safety as one of their three main concerns about opting out and 72 per cent said patients would get poorer quality care.

The survey found 83 per cent of GPs intend to opt out, with only half planning to work shifts.

GPs said using more nurses and paramedics to fill the gap and pressure on PCOs to provide an out-of-hours service as cheaply as possible could compromise patient care. Seven GPs in 10 said patients would get more inappropriate advice and 62 per cent said they would get more inappropriate medication.

Dr Marc Fellows, a GP in Wincanton, Somerset, said 'mistakes were inevitable' because 'lesser skilled' nurses and paramedics would be filling the gap left by GPs. He added: 'It should be drilled into nurses and paramedics that if they are in any doubt they must consult a doctor.'

Dr Mark Butt, a GP in Lowestoft, Suffolk, said fewer doctors working out-of-hours meant services would be stretched more thinly.

Dr Michael Loosemoor, a GP in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, said: 'There will be less people. They will not have the time and they will deal with patients over the phone inappropriately.'

Dr Ken Lowe, a GP in Paisley, Renfrewshire, said patients could be 'overtreated'. He added: 'I think there is going to be a tendency to over-admit patients for investigations and treatment.'

GPs also said they had no confidence in NHS Direct to take on more responsibility, with 89 per cent stating it would not be able to cope.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'It does not cope now and it will not cope. The Government will learn that.'

The GPC and National Patient Safety Agency said contracts between PCOs and new out-of-hours providers needed to contain detailed quality standards and regular audits.

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