Open All Night

You may be aware that Suffolk GP Federation has been successful in winning the bid for the out-of-hours GP service in Suffolk. We are partnering with Care UK.

Why did we bid?

The Fed believes that out-of-hours is an integral part of primary care. The patient presenting with a chest infection at 3am is no different from the one presenting at 3pm. Poor out-of-hours services lead to other pressures within the system, either secondary care or indeed daytime primary care.

We have been insistent that the IT system that is used most in general practice and by other services in Suffolk – SystmOne – should be the default system of choice. This has now been agreed with our partners.

We know that familiarity with the IT system and completeness of the patient record is extremely important to clinicians working in the service for patient safety, efficiency and indemnity. It is a mystery to me as to why it has taken so long to deliver it in this way. Using SystmOne will allow us to make appropriate referrals out-of-hours and decrease the necessity for follow-ups with GPs for simple administrative tasks.

Working with Care UK

Suffolk GP Federation is a small clinician led organisation with patient care and quality of service at its core. Care UK is a much larger, corporate organisation but they were rated ‘Outstanding’ for their out-of-hours service in Suffolk.

Care UK will be running the NHS 111 helpline service. Due to the demands on those services only very large organisations have the necessary infrastructure to make them safe and resilient. Suffolk GP Federation is providing clinicians for face-to-face consultations, and also clinical input into the clinical assessment service. This is a service where calls will be triaged in 111, providing earlier clinician assessment.

There are risks at taking on this service. But a single workforce across our GP+ service, ED streaming and out-of-hours will give clinicians the option of where they want to work, with the same pay conditions across all. We also inherit colleagues from Care UK who will be working in the service.


We have deliberately kept a low profile with this service. We do not want to ramp up out-of-hours demand. This should remain an appropriate service for things that cannot be dealt with during the day. We hope our position as a respected, clinically led organisation will help us to get this message out to patients.


Being involved in the out-of-hours service further supports the GP Federation’s role in both East and West Suffolk healthcare alliances, as well as the  local Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP). As we become increasingly integral within the local healthcare system it enables the ‘GP voice’ to be heard. Our experience is that if you want to change services you have to run them and have operational control.


Out-of-hours is a more risky contract but there are opportunities. By improving the service we can bring more funding into primary care, as was suggested in the Care Quality Commission report on out of hours issued earlier this year.