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GPs to take on out-of-hours responsibility from next April

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs are set to be thrust into commissioning out-of-hours care as early as next April, as the Government's root-and-branch restructuring of the NHS begins to take shape.

The Government has revealed it will launch a new model contract for out-of-hours by April 2011, which GPs will be expected to use when commissioning the service from providers.

The move means GPs will begin the process of assuming responsibility for out-of-hours care next year, ahead of the full-scale implementation of the Government's far-reaching commissioning reforms by April 2013.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the new NHS Commissioning Board will be tasked with 'designing model NHS contracts for local commissioners to adapt and use with providers'.

She added: ‘We anticipate that this will include the contractual arrangements for out-of-hours services.'

A leading health policy advisor to the Conservatives said the Government would launch further guidance on out-of-hours this autumn when it has discussed the plans with the GPC, but was keen to tread carefully because of the ‘tension' involved.

Dr Paul Charlson, chair of the Conservative Medical Society and a GP in Brough in Cumbria, said discussions had ‘already started between GPC and Government', with a view to making further announcements before October's Tory party conference.

‘Obviously it's a very touchy subject,' he said. 'The key thing is to bring the profession with the Government. Andrew Lansley doesn't want to do anything to alienate the medical profession.'

Dr James Kingsland, NAPC President and a GP in Wallasey, Merseyside, said there was no need to delay in proceeding with the out-of-hours reforms, as the systems were already in place for GPs to take on a prominent commissioning role.

‘The secretary of state is a man in a hurry, and the resources are already there,' he said.

Dr James Kingsland: 'The secretary of state is a man in a hurry' Dr James Kingsland: 'The secretary of state is a man in a hurry' Your questions on the White Paper

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