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Out-of-hours safety fears

By Gareth Iacobucci

A new report has raised concern over out-of-hours services in rural areas.

The study, by the Commission for Rural Communities claims that when only small number of patients are seen 'serious questions' arise about the ability of staff to 'maintain their skills base' across a comprehensive range of patient conditions and medical procedures.

'There are also circumstances in which even if a condition is not obviously ‘acute' it will generally be better to travel further to receive specialist care,' it adds ' A minor stroke is a good example of this.'

The research also highlights the difficulty of balancing service capacity and costs for OOH services in rural areas, especially when it comes to providing pharmacy advice

'It is simply not viable for pharmacies to be open 24 hours a day because there isn't the population to support this,' it adds.

The report, which came from a study into OOH services for rural communities in Mid Devon and South Worcestershire, also calls for 'greater coordination between the different organisations involved in commissioning or providing services'.

The PCTs in both areas have since merged, which the report said could provide an opportunity 'to achieve economies of scale, reduce duplication and fill confusing gaps in both the commissioning and provision of out of hours services.'

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