15 February

The latest figures on out of hours cover by GPs in 2016 has revealed that as many as 10% of locations in England had no overnight or weekend cover for at least some of the time last year.

In an investigation by Pulse magazine, it was discovered that from 104 commissioners as many as ten admitted that they had endured times when no cover was available because of desperate and chronic staff shortages.

Tawhid Juneja, CEO of award winning recruitment company Primary Care Professionals said “These are shocking and alarming figures. This situation was partly responsible for the terrible meltdowns in A&E departments during the busiest period of the year. For example in one area it was left to nursing and paramedic staff to cover an area with 300,000 patients because of a shortage of GPs available for out-of-hours care.

“As recruiters we are only too aware of this problem which is why we sourced our own indemnity cover because most GPs can’t afford up to £30,000pa for an indemnity insurance policy. There is already a national shortage of GPs and the out of hours situation will not improve even if more GPs are engaged, whether from the EU or a pool of junior doctors willing to consider a career in general practice.

“We are very concerned about the risk to patients and their quality of care. Although the government has promised to deliver 5,000 more GPs into primary care by 2020, unless urgent action is taken to encourage more GPs to take on out of hours cover the situation isn’t likely to change in the next three years. We believe that many more GPs would be willing to do more out of hours work if their indemnity costs were covered.”

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