|MP calls for clarity on
MPs are concerned that the
public are unsure as to who is providing out-of-hours care
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has called on the government to decide what sort of out-of-hours medical care it wants the NHS to provide, as a new report finds that the Department of Health’s ‘hands off’ approach to the new contract for GPs left primary care trusts unable to commission out-of-hours services properly.
Mr Bacon was speaking as the Commons public accounts committee published its report on the provision of out-of-hours care in England.
“The Department of Health's ‘hands off’ approach left local trusts clueless over the kind of service they were supposed to be providing. We now know that GPs couldn’t believe their luck when they found out what an attractive proposition opting-out would be. The government did not fully realise just how much work GPs were doing for nothing and you can hardly blame doctors for accepting a good deal when it was offered to them”.
“Officials must give Trusts the clarity they need on the sort of out-of-hours service they should be providing. The Department of Health’s disinterest has left Trusts with an out-of-hours service that costs £70 million a year more than they are being given by the government. This is money Trusts cannot afford to lose”.
Under the terms of the new GPs contract, which came into effect in April 2004, doctors can opt out of providing out-of-hours care in exchange for a £6,000 pay cut. The Department of Health decided to act solely as an ‘observer’ during contract negotiations and the report finds that this approach left primary care trusts struggling to commission replacement out-of-hours cover, because Department of Health officials did not explain whether the cover should be for urgent care or all unscheduled health needs.
The report also finds that a £70 million gap between what Trusts are being given to pay for out-of-hours cover by the Department of Health and what they are actually spending is causing Trusts to go deeper into the red or to take money away from other services.
14 March 2007
|© Richard Bacon 2010|