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Improvements to be made to OOH services

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 announced.

These tough new measures form part of a package that together with stronger national standards and tighter monitoring of performance will improve GP out of hours services.

The measures follow a report, General Practice Out of Hours Services, published by the Department of Health today. The Department has accepted all of the report's 24 recommendations and expects primary care trusts (PCTs) to act on them as a matter of urgency. 

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 out of hours GPs have a satisfactory knowledge of English.

Today's measures will go even further, introducing stronger national minimum standards and producing a model contract for PCTs to use when procuring out of hours services.

The Department will also look to GPs for input on how local out of hours services meet the needs of their local communities.

PCTs will also be expected to regularly review their performance management arrangements for their OOH GP services, ensuring they are robust and fit for purpose. Strategic Health Authorities should also oversee how PCTs manage the performance of OOH GP providers.

Health Minister Mike O'Brien said: “I extend my condolences to the family of Mr Gray. Patient safety must be a top priority of the NHS. Although out of hours services are much better than before 2004, some PCTs are not meeting their legal obligations and I am determined to tackle this.

“I am accepting all the recommendations made in today's report and setting out new measures that go even further. These will tighten existing controls and ensure that out of hours providers are employing competent clinicians, providing safe and effective care.

“I expect all PCTs to act on these recommendations as a matter of urgency. It is unacceptable for any Trust to fail to meet its obligations on safety and quality of care.

“By April 2012 every provider of GP healthcare, including out of hours providers, will need to be registered with the Care Quality Commission and will be subject to checks on compliance.”

Department of Health