NHS cuts gone 'too far' says GP out-of-hours provider IC24

IC24 board members
Image caption Dr Mark Reynolds, Yvonne Taylor and Lorraine Gray from IC24 attended a Norfolk county council meeting to answer questions about the provision of its out-of-hours service

A GP out-of-hours service provider said NHS cuts had left it with less than the price of a pizza to spend on patients.

IC24 has a contract to provide 111 non-emergency call services and GPs outside normal hours in Norfolk and Wisbech.

A leaked critical report on the business said it had a shortage of GPs and deficiencies in call handling.

IC24 medical director Mark Reynolds told a county council health committee: "We receive £7.50 per person per year - about the price of a pizza delivery."

He told the scrutiny meeting the fee per patient per year had been nearly £14 in 2008.

"The pendulum has swung too far in cost-cutting in the NHS nationally," said Dr Reynolds.

Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG), which took on IC24, said it was paying an "appropriate amount" for the service.

'Financial pressures'

Last November, NCCG carried out unannounced checks after staff reported concerns.

It found a lack of doctors, staff saying unseen patients were wiped from the database, and callers waiting more than 12 hours for advice.

Its report said this posed "a significant risk to patient safety".

IC24 told county councillors it had made improvements, including recruiting more call handlers and creating a new senior GP oversight role.

It said it was able to run a "safe and sustainable" out-of-hours service.

The meeting was told annual indemnity insurance costs of up to £20,000 - to be paid by GPs - were putting off many doctors from working out-of-hours shifts.

An NCCG spokesman said: "There are immense financial pressures on all of the NHS.

"We believe Norfolk and Wisbech CCG is paying an appropriate amount of money for this new service."

NHS England said out-of-hours doctors had been given temporary financial support over the winter to cover insurance costs.

Scrutiny committee chairman Michael Cartiss said the report's revelations were "alarming" and the committee would look at IC24's progress in a year's time.

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