Out-of-hours GP services 'must improve' says CQC
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said that Integrated Care 24 (IC24), which runs non-emergency 111 and out-of-hours services in Norfolk and Wisbech and the surrounding areas, must improve.
The out-of-hours GP service was recently at the centre of a scandal over patients waiting hours for calls.
The regulator has said that IC24 must do more to recruit and retain GPs, and to make sure that staff who are taking calls from the public receive adequate training in order for them to make clinical decisions over the phone.
A whistle-blower told the Daily Mail earlier this year that just one GP had provided emergency cover for more than 900,000 people on some nights. In addition, some patients were also found to have waited more than twelve hours for return calls after contacting 111.
Inspectors said: “On one occasion during a recent Saturday prior to our inspection there had been a shortage of GPs in the whole area over a 24-hour period, spread over several shifts. During this period a total of 50 GP shifts were planned and six had remained uncovered. This had resulted in potential difficulties in patients being able to access the services of a GP in certain areas.”
Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice at CQC, Janet Williamson, said: “Our inspectors found that systems and processes to help prevent patients being put at risk of harm were not always in place.
There were delays in patients accessing the 111 and the GP out-of-hours service, the systems to show that staff had been appropriately trained and security checked were ineffective and we found some medicines were out of date. We have told the service to take action to address these and other issues.”
IC24 responded by saying that “recruitment had proven difficult, which was partly due to competing offers of shifts and benefits to GPs at other services”.