It has been reported that GP out-of-hours care is improving in England. However, inspectors have highlighted that weaknesses do still exist in certain areas, which need more of a focus.
In total, 30 services were reviewed by the Care Quality Commission, covering a third of the population. During these reviews, concerns over recruitment processes and medicines management were highlighted. Nonetheless, the review concluded that services on the whole were safe and well-led.
The review comes after many years of criticism following the overhaul of the system back in 2004. At that time, GPs were allowed to opt out of providing care which resulted in private providers and the NHS tackling night and weekend care. In 2010, a 70 year old man was given an overdose of painkiller by a German locum doctor working his first NHS night shift. A review was carried out and the CQC now says that there have been significant improvements.
The inspectors noted that there were fewer locum GPs covering shifts and services were actively encouraging feedback from patients. Despite this, a fifth of services were not fully compliant on recruitment as they were not carrying out the required checks on staff applying for jobs. Furthermore, criticism was made of nearly a quarter of services over the way they stored and checked stocks of medicine. Even though these concerns were raised, none of the problems was considered serious enough to warrant formal regulatory action.