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Out of hours GP cover is inadequate'

PUBLISHED: 11:29 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 16 August 2010

PATIENTS are being put at risk each night by unacceptable out-of-hours medical cover, as only one GP covers the whole borough at night.

PATIENTS are being put at risk each night by "unacceptable" out-of-hours medical cover, as only one GP covers the whole borough at night.

Bromley Primary Care Trust revealed that between the hours of midnight and 8am there is only one doctor on call for the trust area of over 300,000 patients.

Bromley councillor John Getgood, Labour leader of the opposition, said: "This is unacceptable and we cannot have full confidence in the service.

"It's not only about numbers, it's also about quality of service overall.

"The Trusts have to reassure us that they can provide a prompt and appropriate response from out of hours GPs, when we need it."

Other councillors fear inadequate out-of-hours care would lead to increased pressure on hospital accident and emergency departments, and some are concerned about the effect on the borough's large elderly population.

Since 2004, responsibility for night and weekend care has passed from GPs to Primary Care Trusts, who usually outsource the service.

In Bromley the care is provided by EMdoc, who guarantee that a GP will return all urgent calls.

Patients are either consulted over the phone, visited at home or invited to come into the clinic.

A spokesperson for Bromley PCT said: "We are constantly monitoring requirements to ensure that the services provided are adequate.

"Things normally happen when people are awake, so midnight to 8pm is the quietest period."

This comes as a national study shows that complaints about after hours care doubled last year.

Research by the Medical Defence Union, an insurance company for healthcare professionals, said that there were 75 complaints made about out-of-hours care following the death of a patient between 2007 and 2008.

The chair of Bromley PCT, Elizabeth Butler, will appear before the council's executive and resources committee next Wednesday where members plan to ask her about the state of night time care in Bromley.

She said: "There is clearly a mixed picture across the country. In Bromley, our health partners are subject to the council's robust scrutiny process and as part of that we will look in greater depth at the services to understand the position in Bromley.

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