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GPs shouldn’t have to compete with private providers to deliver out-of-hours services, say RCGP

The Government should change legislation to allow GPs to run out-of-hours services without having to go through competitive tender, the RCGP has said in a report on out-of-hours services.

The college argues that GPs are blocked from providing out-of-hours services because prohibitive tendering regulations make it difficult for small providers to compete on cost.

The Future of GP Out of Hours Care report argues the Government must tackle barriers, such as restrictions on patient record sharing, which make it harder for GPs to integrate in-hours and out-of-hours services, and to ensure there is adequate funding and workforce planning to allow the expansion of GP out-of-hours services.

It also calls for a single organisation to have responsibility for raising awareness of out-of-hours services, after the latest GP patient survey showed just 45% of patients knew how to access services.

The report recommends: ‘The Department of Health should clarify the legal position of GPs seeking to opt back into the provision of out of hours care, and make legislative changes if necessary to ensure that they are able to do so without the requirement to go through a competitive tendering process.’

Commenting on the report, RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘GPs are keen to do more but those who are bidding for new out of hours contracts can find it difficult to compete on cost with bigger companies, some of which have little or no local GP input and involvement with the communities where they want to run services.’

She added: ‘This is not about a return to all GPs working round the clock – that would be unsustainable for GPs and unsafe for patients.’

Government figures revealed in January that under the Coalition GP out-of-hours services had received a 9% real terms pay cut.