A new patient survey claims that out-of-hours doctors are reluctant to make home visits.
Changes to the system for night-time and weekend care has come in for repeated criticism after around 90% of family doctors opted out of providing it in 2004.
The service is now under the management of primary care trusts (PCTs), who use a mixture of GP co-operatives, private firms and in-house teams to deliver care.
Now a small survey, which was published in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care, found that patients felt doctors were reluctant to do home visits.
Researchers interviewed 27 patients who had recently used services in the evenings and weekends in England.
Out-of-hours care may include telephone advice, home visits, or an appointment at a treatment centre.
Once patients had got through and spoken to a healthcare professional, they were generally happy with the quality of service they received, the study found.
But many said they were uncertain about making the call or were confused about how the service worked.
And some said they felt doctors were reluctant to carry out home visits, with many saying staff discouraged this in favour of getting them to attend a treatment centre.
Patients said they were most worried by the slow speed at which their cases were handled and the time it took before they were called back or a home visit was made.
Quality and Safety in Health Care
Copyright © PA Business 2007
Take part in our online practice manager opinion survey!