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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
GP cover scheme 'has gone wrong'
Alan Beith
Mr Beith said one GP is servicing 1,000 square miles.
A scheme which allows doctors to opt out of providing night-time cover, has gone 'worryingly wrong', according to a Northumberland MP.

Alan Beith, MP for Berwick, raised his concerns over the new system during Commons question time on Tuesday.

He said in the north of his county just one GP was expected to cover an area of 1,000 square miles at night.

But Health Secretary John Reid denied patients were suffering and said the service was now more efficient.

'Faster service'

Speaking during the question session on Tuesday, Mr Beith said: "The changes have resulted in great pressure on the ambulance service.

"Some health authorities are reported as having to recruit doctors from Germany for night cover and one Scottish health board is paying 1,000-a-night for health cover.

"Hasn't this part of the new contract gone rather worryingly wrong?"

Under new government guidelines, primary care trusts, which control local NHS spending, are now responsible for GP cover at nights and weekends.

In North Northumberland, just one GP provides night-time cover over an area stretching from Berwick to Hexham after all 53 surgeries opted out of providing a night-call service.

But Dr Reid denied there were shortfalls in the system.

He said: "It is part of a new contract which, allied to the record number of GPs in this country, is meant to give a greater and better and faster service to patients.

"We are committed to ensuring that patients have access to high quality and appropriate and timely healthcare out of hours."





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SEE ALSO:
MP concerned patients are at risk
26 Aug 04  |  Tyne/Wear
Doctor call-out fears are eased
23 Aug 04  |  Scotland
Excessive hours for key doctors
05 Aug 04  |  Health


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