Medical Practice

B.M.A. Deputizing Service in Sheffield, 1970

Br Med J 1973; 1 doi: (Published 10 March 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;1:593
  1. B. T. Williams,
  2. R. A. Dixon,
  3. J. Knowelden


    Seventy-four per cent. of Sheffield general practitioners and 78% of those in Nottingham used a deputizing service in 1970. In each city the deputizing service was used by about 80% of single-handed general practitioners, 90% of doctors in two-doctor practices, and 60% of those in partnerships of three or more.

    The Sheffield deputizing service handled 15,988 new calls in the year, an average of 106 per subscribing doctor, and in addition made 339 revisits. The median number of calls handled for single-handed doctors was 98, for those in two-doctor practices 95, and for those in partnerships of three or more 75. The growth of group practice has not eliminated the demand for deputizing services.

    Sixty-six per cent. of consultations were with deputies who were primarily hospital doctors, 20% with a full-time deputy, 11% with deputies who were primarily general practitioners, and 3% with the switchboard staff, who were also trained nurses. The deputies had been qualified, on average, for eight years. Seventy-two per cent. of patients attended were seen within one hour of receipt of the call.

    Calls handled by the deputizing service represented approximately 1% of all the subscribers' consultations, 5% of their home visits, and half their calls between midnight and 07.00 hours. At this level of activity the concept of “personal doctoring” was not threatened.

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