Reassurances over foreign out-of-hours doctors

Dan GrimmerHealth bosses have moved to reassure patients in Norfolk over the safety procedures they put in place when recruiting overseas doctors.Dan Grimmer

Health bosses have moved to reassure patients in Norfolk over the safety procedures they put in place when recruiting overseas doctors.

The crisis facing GP out-of-hours service was highlighted this week at an inquest into the death of a 70-year-old patient who was given a massive overdose of diamorphine by a locum doctor from Germany.

Daniel Ubani had flown in for his first out-of-hours shift with the company Take Care Now (TCN) and gave the drug to David Gray from Manea, Cambridgeshire, whose inquest was concluded yesterday.

Cambridgeshire North and East Coroner William Morris recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for David Gray and accused doctor Daniel Ubani of gross negligence.

He also criticised out-of-hours care in this country saying that 'weaknesses remain in the system' and made a string of recommendations, including the setting up of a database for foreign doctors working here.

Yesterday's inquest hearing was followed by the publication of a government-ordered review into out-of-hours health care, which recommended more stringent checks are carried out on overseas doctors.

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Dr Bryan Heap, NHS Norfolk's medical director, said they would be instituting any reviews of their commissioning process as required.

NHS Norfolk buys health services for people in Norfolk (excluding Great Yarmouth) and commissions the out-of hours service from the East of England Ambulance Service.

He added: 'We continue to work with our out-of-hours service provider, the East of England Ambulance Service, to ensure we have a safe and effective service. Patient surveys indicate a generally high level of satisfaction and the service is regularly monitored for both clinical safety and patient satisfaction.'

After midnight there is normally a team of four GPs and five emergency care practitioners on duty and seven GPs before midnight.

In Norfolk, 98pc of out of hour shifts are covered by in-county GPs and there are two non-UK GPs who are in the pool of 125 GPs available.

Both have worked in the Norfolk out-of-hours service since 2005, have excellent English and have been 'very carefully vetted and approved' by the ambulance service.

Dr Nick Morton, East of England Ambulance Service medical director, said: 'I completely share the public worry regarding appropriate the selection of overseas doctors in the wake of this case. Of course it is a big concern but I want to reassure our patients that the scenario here is vastly different to the one highlighted by recent events elsewhere. In fact I am very pleased that at last the government is looking into the issue as a whole and welcome the review.

'Our selection process for all doctors is extremely stringent to ensure absolutely no-one, from overseas or otherwise, slips through the net. The few overseas GPs we use on the odd occasion are well trusted and liked and have been with us for years. The remainder are Norfolk family doctors.'

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