Today's Commons Public Accounts Committee report begins, "The Department of Health thoroughly mishandled the introduction of the new system of out-of-hours care" and complains that "a disproportionate amount of taxpayers' money is now having to be spent to provide the replacement out-of-hours service." It goes on:
"The needs of patients are not best served by the ending of Saturday morning surgeries. They are not best served where access to advice and treatment is often extremely difficult and slow. And they are not best served where no one knows whether the new out-of-hours service is meant for urgent cases only or for any requests for help at all.The response of the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was uncannily reminiscent of those unconvincing adverts of a bygone generation for cat food: "eight out of ten patients are satisfied."
“To cap it all, the cost of the new out-of-hours service is around £70 million a year more than was expected. That’s the last thing the Primary Care Trusts need at this time of increasing financial pressure.”