GPs providing out-of-hours (OOH) care in England will be subject to tighter controls and more robust skills and knowledge testing, Health Minister Mike O'Brien has pledged.
New measures have been introduced after the government accepted the findings of a report into current OOH services conducted by Dr David Colin-Thome, National Clinical Director for Primary Care, and Professor Steve Field, RCGP Chairman, which found "unacceptable variations" in the implementation and monitoring of OOH care by PCTs around the country.
PCTs have already been issued with interim guidance to assist them in complying with their obligations to ensure all doctors admitted onto their list of approved OOH GPs have a satisfactory knowledge of English.
The Department of Health's (DH) new measures will produce a model contract for PCTs to use when procuring OOH services. The DH expects this to be in place by the end of the year.
The DH will also look to GPs for input on how local OOH services meet the needs of their local communities.
PCTs will be expected regularly to review their performance management arrangements for their OOH GP services, ensuring they are robust and fit for purpose. SHAs will also oversee how PCTs manage the performance of OOH GP providers.
Health Minister Mike O'Brien said: "Patient safety must be a top priority of the NHS. Although OOH services are much better than before 2004, some PCTs are not meeting their legal obligations and I am determined to tackle this.
The minister said the new measures will "tighten existing controls and ensure that OOH providers are employing competent clinicians, providing safe and effective care."
RCGP Chairman, Professor Steve Field said: "There are examples of excellent OOH services around the country but as recent events have shown, there are areas where care is not as good as patients deserve.
"We're pleased that Mike O'Brien has accepted our report in full and that the government is taking the right steps in ensuring that patients will receive consistently good care across the country."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I wholly agree with the stance the government has taken. Holistic and continuity of care is crucial in any individual approach and for safety" – P Ramtohul, Bradford