It has been reported that GP out-of-hours care is improving in England. However, inspectors have highlighted that weaknesses do still exist in certain areas, which need more of a focus.
In total, 30 services were reviewed by the Care Quality Commission, covering a third of the population. During these reviews, concerns over recruitment processes and medicines management were highlighted. Nonetheless, the review concluded that services on the whole were safe and well-led.
The review comes after many years of criticism following the overhaul of the system back in 2004. At that time, GPs were allowed to opt out of providing care which resulted in private providers and the NHS tackling night and weekend care. In 2010, a 70 year old man was given an overdose of painkiller by a German locum doctor working his first NHS night shift. A review was carried out and the CQC now says that there have been significant improvements.
The inspectors noted that there were fewer locum GPs covering shifts and services were actively encouraging feedback from patients. Despite this, a fifth of services were not fully compliant on recruitment as they were not carrying out the required checks on staff applying for jobs. Furthermore, criticism was made of nearly a quarter of services over the way they stored and checked stocks of medicine. Even though these concerns were raised, none of the problems was considered serious enough to warrant formal regulatory action.
Commenting on this recent review, Philippa Luscombe, a partner in Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, said: “It is really positive to see that improvements have been made to patient care. The inspections have shown that in the majority of cases, the care received by patients is responsive, safe and effective. It is however extremely important that further thorough reviews are undertaken of out-of-hours care if problems do continue to exist.”
According to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, of the British Medical Association, it seems that this review did not include the 111 telephone services which are believed to have some ongoing problems. The CQC will start inspecting this later in the autumn.