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RCGP calls for 'radical' review of OOH care

By Steve Nowottny

The Royal College of General Practitioners has called for the Government to launch a wide-ranging review of GP out-of-hours care – warning the current system is ‘obviously not working'.

In a strongly worded statement issued today, RCGP chair Professor Steve Field warned that patients were being provided with sub-standard out-of-hours care in some parts of the country, and raised particular concern about the use of European doctors ‘flying in' to work out-of-hours shifts.

His comments were backed by GMC chief executive Finlay Scott, who said that the current system of vetting European doctors ‘does not guarantee the level of patient safety that we want'.

Earlier this year a GP whose father died following a mistake by a German locum doctor called for an investigation into the GMC registration of out-of-hours doctors.

David Gray died in February 2008 after being given a 100mg dose of morphine by Dr Daniel Ubani, who was employed by out-of-hours provider Take Care Now.

Professor Steve Field said: ‘A comprehensive review of out-of-hours and weekend care is needed. I am particularly worried about the use of doctors from Europe flying in to provide out-of-hours care and then flying back to their home countries to provide services there.'

‘Doctors from Europe who come to the UK to work in out-of-hours services must prove they are of the same quality as our home-grown doctors. We are not convinced there are appropriate checks in place to ensure they are.'

A wider ‘radical' review of out-of-hours services was required to address poor quality care in some areas, he added.

‘We know that care in many parts of the country is excellent, and indeed in many areas provided by GPs who choose to work in out-of-hours services, but the quality of care appears to be patchy around the country,' he said.

‘It is the responsibility of primary care organisations to ensure that patients receive good quality care by commissioning appropriate services. This is obviously not working – we are concerned patients are not getting the care they deserve.'

In an interview with the Guardian today, Mr Scott said the GMC also believed that the current rules on EU doctors left patients at risk.

He said: ‘We have to persuade the EU to change its long-standing policy so we can test knowledge and skills at the point of first registration and the government in each of the four countries [of the UK] should say to primary care providers you must do your job.'

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field RCGP chair Professor Steve Field

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