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Lower standards in out-of-hours care ‘due to PCT cost-cutting’

By Gareth Iacobucci

A senior GP out-of-hours leader has revealed her co-operative was left with no choice but to lower its quality standards because of the financial demands being placed on contracts by PCTs.

Dr Fay Wilson, medical director of BADGER Out-of-Hours Co-operative in Birmingham and a GP in the city, said the provider was forced to accept it could not meet its own rapid response targets without exceeding costs.

It comes just weeks after a Pulse investigation showed almost two-thirds of primary care organisations that were renegotiating out-of-hours contracts and reducing the amount they paid providers.

Dr Wilson told a health select committee inquiry trusts’ prioritisation of cost when contracting out-of-hours services was putting some GPs off from being involved, and that she was ‘fundamentally concerned’ about the current system.

‘We were too expensive. In order to keep up with the processes, we had to lower our quality standards. For instance, if we look at how fast we respond, to do things faster, you need more doctors on call. To be competitive in the market, you need to drop prices.’

Dr Wilson added: ‘GPs have said, ‘I’m not working it because I have to drop standards”.’

But Dr Wilson said the recent Government report into out-of-hours standards by Professor Steve Field and Professor David Colin-Thome was beginning to have a positive impact on trusts’ behaviour. ‘My perception is the recommendations have put things up a gear,’ she said.

Dr Fay Wilson