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'Tool kits' to improve round-the-clock NHS service

14th March 2007

The Department for Health is to improve round-the-clock NHS services with the introduction of a tool kit, enabling service-providers to assess their effectiveness.

Using the clinical audit tool kit, doctors, nurses and call handlers will be able to measure the speed and accuracy of their response and their ability to identify emergencies in an out-of-hours scenario.

Clinicians and call handlers can use the findings to iron out inconsistencies in out-of-hours services which occur in some parts of the country.

The scheme could later see the addition of language criteria and understanding of the local health economy for doctors recruited from outside the UK.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "A high quality and safe service for the public is all important and providers need tools to monitor their clinical outcomes. The new tool kit is a practical way of helping them achieve this."

Andy Burnham, health minister, said: "National quality requirements should mean national standards – high quality must be pervasive, not patchy. Today's tool kit will help fix this problem."

The initiative comes as the NHS faces criticism for making in too easy for GPs to opt out of out-of-hours duty.

This has resulted in a significant burden being laid on primary care trusts who are responsible for dealing cases when there is no GP on call.

The arrangements have been criticised for delivering benefits to doctors but no one else.