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The changing face of out-of-hours: An introduction

Pulse looks behind the headlines at the effect of the OOH opt-out – and the likely future role of GPs

Pulse looks behind the headlines at the effect of the OOH opt-out – and the likely future role of GPs

The 2004 opt-out from out-of-hours was a watershed moment for general practice.

GPs had been desperate to shed day-to-day responsibility for covering shifts, but when the time came to pass the burden to PCTs, some did so with heavy hearts.

There were serious doubts over the capacity of trusts to manage services properly.

Our latest survey, of almost 600 GPs, suggests nothing has happened over the past four years to dispel those doubts.

As many as 47% of GPs believe out-of-hours care has got worse since 2004, and just 19% think it has got better. Only 38% have faith in trusts to run out-of-hours services effectively.

Just 48% of GPs believe out-of-hours care in general is of high quality. But how much of this negative feeling has been whipped up by the media, rather than informed by first-hand experience of local services?

Well, if asked about their local service, things look only a little better, with just 58% of GPs feeling their patients have access to good quality care.

Cash constraints are key. The amount GPs are being paid to run shifts has been cut in some areas, and across the country nurses and emergency care practitioners are replacing doctors on shifts.

Of those GPs aware of the situation in their local out-of-hours service, as many as two-thirds said GP shifts were being cut.

It is against that fevered backdrop that Pulse decided to put out-of-hours services under the microscope, to ask whether care is really getting worse, how GPs can attempt to improve the situation and what the future may hold.

Pulse looks at the changing face of out of hours

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