Devon Doctors has provided out-of-hours GP cover to the population of Devon since 2004 and as a group of local GP cooperatives since 1996. It is owned and run by local GPs as a social enterprise and any surplus generated is not paid to shareholders but reinvested back into the service.
Your front-page article about gaps in rotas on out-of-hours shifts implied that Devon Doctors was one of those providers which does not routinely fill its commissioned level of shifts (Up to a quarter of GP OOH shifts left unfilled).
Had your reporter spoken to us, he would have discovered that this is not the case – in 2012 Devon Doctors filled 99.4% of the 18,000-plus shifts it was responsible for providing. Moreover, it is also worth pointing out that, every year since 2004, Devon Doctors has used surplus to fund additional non-commissioned shifts. It is this, and the continuing support of local GPs from across Devon, which has seen Devon Doctors perform consistently well in every local, regional and national benchmarked audit of OOHs providers since 2004 – despite the pressures created by year-on-year increases in activity.
I do not deny that it can be a struggle to fill out-of-hours shifts. However, the point is that Devon Doctors and other high-quality providers of OOHs care work tremendously hard to do so. I feel your article was an insult to everyone at Devon Doctors who work so hard to ensure this is the case, as well as the hardworking GPs who continue to support their local out-of-hours services.
Chris Wright, Chief executive, Devon Doctors
Editor’s note: Pulse’s article did not name Devon Doctors, although it did highlight Devon as one of more than 20 areas where GPs reported ‘local out-of-hours providers were leaving gaps in rotas’. We stand by our story, but are grateful for the clarification from Devon Doctors that in its case the rate of unfilled slots on rotas is low. The point the story was making was that ‘commissioning, extended opening and tax changes have drained the system of GPs willing to work out of hours’ – it was certainly not intended as an insult to GP out-of-hours providers, who work hard in difficult circumstances.