Cornwall's GPs 'may care for 535,000 patients'

Serco vehicle
Image caption NHS managers have ordered an independent report on Serco's figures

Out-of-hours GPs sometimes have more than 500,000 patients in their care in Cornwall, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to UK primary care trusts by a national newspaper revealed that on some nights one doctor was on duty.

In Cornwall, on some occasions, one GP was responsible for 535,000 patients.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) said the out-of-hours service was "safe" and had "enough staff to meet needs".

The PCT, which buys the out of hours service, said: "We know there have been issues over staffing but Serco is recruiting more doctors and we have an agreement with them that there will never be fewer than two doctors on call.

"They also have nurses and emergency care practitioners working through the night so local people should not feel that there are not enough staff to meet their needs."

Problems 'addressed'

The pressure to effectively-staff Cornwall's out of hours GP services came under scrutiny recently after another report highlighting the shortage of qualified doctors on shift.

Serco told BBC News its out-of-hours service uses "a range of roles including Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs), Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and GPs".

"The numbers of each of these categories varies depending on a range of factors including seasonality and the day of the week, but currently always includes between two and seven GPs and five ECPs and NPs. In addition we always have at least one nurse on triage duty," it said.

Serco recently told BBC News it had addressed problems raised by the Care Quality Commission about staffing levels after Cornwall's primary care trust commissioned an independent review.

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