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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Out-of-hours: Findings pose a challenge for Lord Darzi

Ever since PCTs took over responsibility in 2004, the issue of out-of-hours care has been a thorny one.

Ever since PCTs took over responsibility in 2004, the issue of out-of-hours care has been a thorny one.

GPs have been aware of far-reaching changes – a centralisation of services, the increasing role played by non-GPs and, in some areas, a rise in private provision.

But nationally, there has been no clear picture. The patchwork nature of out-of-hours cover, varying widely even in neighbouring PCTs, makes it difficult to come up with any kind of national analysis – or solution.

Patients, inevitably, are confused. One point agreed on by politicians of all parties is that having a single three-digit telephone number to access out-of-hours care would help.

There is general agreement, too, that the Summary Care Record, if brought in with proper patient confidentiality safeguards, could solve many of the communication problems.

Pulse's findings pose major questions for health minister Lord Ara Darzi in his NHS review.

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