Hope that GPs will take over out-of-hours care contract in West Norfolk is dashed

Dr Ian Mack, Chair of the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group.

Dr Ian Mack, Chair of the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group.

A call for West Norfolk's GPs to return to providing out-of-hours care has been dashed after the chairman of the area's clinical commissioning group (CCG) said the current contract could not be broken.

North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham claimed to have support from doctors for his idea of forming a consortium of practices that would share night-time rotas across the west of the county.

Sheila Young, chairman of the West Norfolk Patient Partnership, also said many of the practices she had spoken to supported the move – because it would ensure people get better care from a familiar doctor.

She added that GPs would like to take over out-of-hours care 'sooner rather than later'. However, Dr Ian Mack, chairman of the West Norfolk CCG – responsible for awarding the contract – said no GPs had approached him about changing tack.

He added that even if they did, the CCG could not break its current three-year contract with the East of England Ambulance Service, which started in August 2012.

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Despite that, Dr Mack pointed to changes in the GP contract nationally which will take effect from April.

In particular doctors will have a new 'named clinician' role, with overall responsibility for the care of vulnerable elderly patients.

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Mrs Young said there were examples of where the present out-of-hours arrangement worked well, but added: 'With the current out-of-hours service, you've got someone going in who is completely foreign to that situation.

'It is quite possible they would just get that person into a hospital, whereas one's own GP would go in knowing the situation and would deal with it in the home.'

Mr Bellingham added that having a GP consortium providing out-of-hours care would 'take a huge amount of pressure off accident and emergency'.

He said: 'Many doctors feel slightly anxious that they don't have control over their patients during that time.'

Who do you think should be responsible for out-of-hours care in west Norfolk? Write, giving your full contact details, to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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