UK Government

Department of Health: Recommendations to Improve GP Out of Hours Services

Press Release   •   Feb 08, 2010 11:35 GMT

A report into GP Out-Of-Hours care that makes a number of recommendations for improving the system was published by the Department of Health today.

The report, ‘General Practice Out of Hours Services,’ follows a review by Dr David Colin-Thome, National Clinical Director for Primary Care at the Department of Health and Professor Steve Field, Chairman of Council, Royal College of General Practitioners.

The review looked at current arrangements for out-of-hours services.  It found that there are already robust requirements in place to ensure the commissioning and delivery of safe, high quality out-of-hours services, but that there is unacceptable variation in how these are implemented and monitored by Primary Care Trusts around the country.

It outlines a number of recommendations to improve the commissioning and provision of out of hours care, including that:

  • PCTs should review the performance management arrangements in place for their out-of-hours services and ensure they are robust and fit for purpose;
  • The Department of Health should issue guidance to PCTs to assist them in making decisions about whether or not a doctor has the necessary knowledge of English;
  • The Department of Health should develop and introduce an improvement programme for PCTs to support their commissioning and performance management of out-of-hours services;
  • Out-of-hours providers should consider the recruitment and selection processes in place for clinical staff to ensure they are robust and that they are following best practice;
  • Strategic Health Authorities should consider how they monitor action taken by PCTs in response to this report and in carrying out appropriate performance management of out-of-hours providers; and
  • Providers should co-operate with other local and regional providers (both in and out-of-hours) to share any concerns over staff working excessive hours for their respective services.

The Department of Health has accepted all the recommendations in the report.
Dr David Colin-Thome said:

“The quality of out of hours care for most people is better than it was in 2004, but there is unacceptable variation in how services are implemented and monitored around the country.

“However, I am confident that by implementing the recommendations from our report, the system can be strengthened and vastly improved.”

Professor Steve Field added:

“The report outlines a number of important recommendations which will remind PCTs of their legal obligation to provide safe, high quality out of hours care.

“I’m pleased that Health Minister Mike O’Brien has accepted the report’s recommendations in full and that there are plans to go even further to ensure patients will receive consistently good care, regardless of where they live.”

Notes to editors

  • The full report contains 24 recommendations in total. It will be published on the Department of Health website shortly: www.dh.gov.uk
  • The Department of Health will set out its response to the report, ‘General Practice Out of Hours Services,’ and further measures to strengthen GP out of hours services later this afternoon.
  • The out of hours period generally refers to:
  • (a)   the period beginning at 6.30pm on any day from Monday to Thursday and ending at 8am on the following day,

    (b)   the period between 6.30pm on Friday and 8am on the following Monday, and

    (c)   Good Friday, Christmas Day and bank holidays.

  • By the Beginning of 2004, approximately 70 per cent of GPs had delegated the responsibility to a GP co-operative, and around 25 per cent to a commercial provider.  By April 2005, 75 per cent of out-of-hours provision was carried out by the Trusts themselves or through co-operatives, with the remaining 25 per cent provided by commercial providers, ambulance trusts and others, and with NHS Direct supplying initial call handling for many providers.
  • For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
  • Contacts

    NDS Enquiries
    Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
    ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk