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Tougher standards for OOH benchmarking

By Ian Quinn

Out-of-hours providers are to be grilled on the number of locums they use and the training they provide them, including those flown in from abroad, in an attempt to prevent more patient tragedies, Pulse can reveal.

The Primary Care Foundation is drawing up changes to its NHS-funded national benchmarking scheme, launched last year in an effort to drive up standards of out-of-hours care, with use of locums, their levels of training and gaps in GP rotas to be recorded for the first time.

Previous findings from the scheme - although anonymised - have already exposed huge variation in the cost and quality of out–of–hours care, without providing detail on locum use.

But extra data is now to be collected, and the Government's primary care tsar Dr David Colin Thome is urging all PCTs to sign up to the benchmarking scheme, following the outcry over the death of an out-of-hours patient in Cambridge under the care of a German locum.

Henry Clay, director of the Primary Care Foundation, said from early next year the service, which already has 90 PCTs signed up, would begin questioning trusts on whether out-of-hours providers have language tests for foreign GPs, whether they were given specific training about the locality they work in and if slots on rotas are routinely filled by locums.

It follows last week's highly critical preliminary report from the Care Quality Commission into the lessons to be learned from the death of David Gray and the services provided by out-of-hours provider Take Care Now.

Mr Clay said: ‘We are not just looking at the issue of foreign GPs. If a GP from Cornwall finds themselves working in the north of England, they may not know about important information about how the service operates in that area. We will be finding out what training trusts have available.'

In a joint statement to PCTs, the NHS Confederation and the NHS Alliance have called for out-of-hours providers to review use of temporary GPs, including locums' ability in speaking English, their understanding of local services and the appropriate use of controlled drugs.

Benchmarking of OOH services is to be ramped up Benchmarking of OOH services is to be ramped up

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