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GP out-of-hours services highly rated despite pressures, finds CQC

The majority of urgent primary care services have been rated as good or outstanding despite system pressures, a CQC report has found.

The report, which looked into walk-in and urgent care centres, NHS 111 and GP out-of-hours services in England, found that 128 were rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, while 16 were rated as ‘requires improvement’ and a further three as ‘inadequate’.

The CQC said the high number of positive ratings come despite workforce and financial pressures.

The report said: ‘Although CQC does not look at the finances of providers, there is a growing risk in this area, with the value of contracts not reflecting the true costs of delivering them.

It added: ‘Recruitment is often difficult as urgent care work is intense, the hours are unsociable and rates of pay cannot compete with the private sector.’

The report continued: ‘Interestingly, despite these challenges, our ratings have consistently shown that performance in all services is best for the caring key question.’

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, said: ‘Well-resourced and integrated urgent care not only provides safe, high quality care to people, but can also ease pressure on other areas of the NHS – particularly emergency departments during the winter period and other times of peak demand. These benefits should not be overlooked.

‘It is encouraging that the majority of care is rated good or outstanding and important that commissioners and other services recognise the value that urgent care offers as part of integrated care for people in a local area. 

This comes after a lack of available workforce means GP out-of-hours services are ‘fragile’ across the whole of Wales, a review by the Board of Community Health Councils found.

Meanwhile, Pulse revealed earlier this year that there was a 26% increase in the number of serious incidences reported by GP out-of-hours services to commissioners last year, with GP leaders warning that they are no longer a ‘safe pace of work’.