HEALTH – OUT-OF-HOURS SERVICES – 24 May 2005
Dr Julian Lewis: I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the out-of-hours service. Does he agree that one of the strange precursors of the present situation was the fact that the GPs who always used to be on call were given the option of taking a very modest reduction in their income in order to shed that major responsibility? Was not the present disaster an entirely predictable outcome of their being given that choice?
[Mr Steve Webb: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that what has happened was predictable, not least because the Primary Care Trusts, which are now responsible for putting in place alternative provision, do not have the budget necessary to pay for the most expensive part of the provision, which is the bit that nobody wants to do – call-outs in the middle of the night and at weekends. That was foreseeable, and I am concerned that so far nothing is being done rapidly enough to address the matter. Lives are at risk as long as the problem is not addressed.]