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PCTs ordered to copy best OOH GPs

The Department of Health has ordered PCTs to copy the best GP-led out-of-hours services to help cut more than £100 million from the NHS deficit. Several GP-led providers were singled out in a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report into out-of-hours services as the most cost-effective models of care.

Overall, the auditors found service standards had fallen since GPs gave up out-of-hours. Transferring responsibility to PCTs had also cost £70 million more than the Government had budgeted for.

But Devon Doctors Co-operative, Suffolk Doctors on Call, On Call Care in Kent, Bexley Care Trust and Central Suffolk PCTs were praised.

Chris Shapcott, director of health value-for-money studies at the NAO, said there was scope to reduce costs by £134 million if all trusts in England matched these top-performing areas.

In response, the department this week wrote to trusts demanding they draw up action plans for how to get value

for money and better-quality services.

GPs working for the pro-viders said the move demonstrated the importance of keeping GPs involved in running out-of-hours services.

Dr Graeme Kelvin, a GP in Bury St Edmunds and chair of Suffolk Doctors on Call, said continuity of service was a factor in the success of GP co-ops.

He added that Central Suffolk PCT was risking GPs' goodwill by cutting the amount it was paying the co-op from £18 to £10 per head. The move had forced it to cut the number of GPs doing shifts.

Dr Kelvin said: 'There is a point in the continuum from sitting on your backside doing nothing to being dangerously busy; somewhere in the middle lies ultimate efficiency. And that's what PCTs want.'

Chris Wright, chief executive of GP co-operative DevonDocs, said the Government's emphasis should be on 'getting value for money through improving quality rather than cutting costs'. Dr Andrew Smith, chair of Devon Doctors, added using nurses and paramedics was

only part of a good OOH service.

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