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Safety fears for OOH GPs after funding for drivers cut

By Christian Duffin

There are fears the security of out-of-hours GPs may be put at risk as cash-strapped PCT bosses scrap funding for drivers.

Out-of-hours doctors have expressed alarm over plans by NHS Cheshire East Community Health, which is planning to review its use of drivers over cost.

Neighbouring Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT has already decided to do away with drivers as from next year.

Cheshire Community Health said a meeting will take place later this month to decide whether to continue the contract but Nigel Parry, managing director of Intercare, which provides the drivers, said: ‘We don't always know what type of patients will be seen so sometimes a doctor will say: "If I'm not out in 15 minutes, ring 999." Our drivers are not shaven-headed men with tattoos, but they do provide an element of security.'

Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT will end its contract with North West Ambulance Service, which provides cars and ambulance care assistant drivers for GP out-of-hours services, in February.

Terry Duggan, an NWAS area manager for planned care, said: ‘The drivers wear green and they go in with the doctors to see patients. The doctors love the service.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator with responsibility for out-of-hours care, said: ‘Out-of-hours providers have a duty to ensure that GPs are working in a safe, secure environment, and it is the norm to provide a driver. Some doctors might choose not to work for out of hours providers if they don't feel secure. Having a driver also means that GPs can take calls and make notes in the car.'

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