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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Primecare's price for out-of-hours to rise 20%

By Nerys Hairon

GPs using Primecare will pay between 10 and 33 per cent more for their out-of-hours cover next year, the deputising service has admitted.

Price increases will average 20 per cent across the country in 2004, adding £1,600 to a typical GP's bill of £7,400.

Medical director Dr Mike Sadler blamed the rises on a 25 per cent hike in shift rates and the cost of meeting Government out-of-hours standards.

GP co-operatives have reported the same pressures.

'It's purely market forces with the new contract, and that's driven by people now recognising the true value of working out-of-hours,' Dr Sadler said. 'No GP likes to pay more for a service, but generally GPs have understood.'

But GPs said they were concerned at the increases.

Dr Richard Harold, a GP in Plymouth, said the practice might switch from Primecare to the local co-op.

He said his fees had gone up 30 per cent last year and a further 20 per cent would take them from £12,000 to £14,500 a year.

'We had a fairly large increase this year so I think we would be looking to change if that's their approach,' Dr Harold said.

GPs also face being tied in until the end of 2004, regardless of when their PCO takes over out-of-hours.

Contracts seen by Pulse state GPs must stay with Primecare unless their primary care organisation commissions the company as its out-of-hours provider or pays out the contract.

Dr Basil Hainsworth, professional executive committee chair of Leicester City West PCT, where around 80 GPs use Primecare, said he was 'concerned'.

He added the trust would have to find the cash to cover the higher rates from elsewhere in its budget.

'We have a duty of care. If the money is not there we will have to find it from somewhere else,' he said.

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