Health minister John Denham has announced a national review of GP services run outside working hours.
The review team will look at how the public can access these services, with the aim of bringing them up to the best possible standard across the country.
Among the issues to be covered are ways to ensure that every GP out-of hours facility has the right number and type of doctors working to make sure patients get the appropriate treatment, and also provides a high-quality, responsive service that offers the best value for money to the public.
During a speech to the National Association of GP Co-operatives in Newcastle, Denham said: “I am pleased to be talking to representatives of GP co-operatives today, because they are leading the way on giving the public fast and convenient access to services outside working hours. Much is very good about out-of-hours services across the country.
“But there is clear evidence that, on occasion, the quality of service falls below acceptable standards. And we do not always have the mechanisms in place to tackle shortcomings effectively.”
The review will also examine the relationship between GPs and NHS Direct, the NHS helpline. In pilot schemes, NHS nurses have been assessing patients who call outside working hours and then referring them to the local out-of hours GP service if necessary.