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Patient communication limited for out-of-hours GPs

GPs providing out-of-hours care are frustrated with poor patient communication and limited access to patient records, research shows.

The Medical Defence Union revealed that in the last year 337 complaints and 41 medical negligence claims were made by GPs working out of hours, most related to communication difficulties.

Since the new GP contract was introduced in April 2004, GPs have been able to opt out of providing care outside normal working hours.

But those who do, have limited access to medical records means GPs making them reliant on patients to accurately recall their medical history.

Out-of-hours GPs say it is difficult to arrange follow-up care with the patient's registered practice and if something goes wrong, they have no early opportunity to give an explanation or apology.

Stephen Green, head of risk management at the MDU said that difficulties with communication are "invariably involved" in out-of-hours work.

"Accurate records are always important for communication in ongoing clinical care and never more so when managing patients out-of-hours," he adds.

"It is also vital that there are reliable links between GPs at a patient's practice and out-of-hours providers."

Medical Defence Union