GPs are refusing to work for badly funded out-of-hours services that put patients at risk by relying on overseas doctors, a conference heard today.

Patient safety is compromised in some parts of the country but complaints from local doctors are falling on deaf ears, it was told.

The British Medical Association’s annual conference in Brighton was told health trusts have been driving down the costs of services on evenings and weekends, and some overseas doctors are used to work shifts.

Proposing a motion on the issue, Dr Peter Holden said some health trusts “penny pinched”, which resulted in under-staffed, under-skilled and under-resourced services.

When local GPs took over shifts, they found some patients had not been attended to properly and some problems had not been spotted.

“UK doctors come on shift to find unacceptable backlogs of work, backlogs caused by slow working arising from language difficulties, backlogs caused by the fact that GPs from many European countries do not see psychiatric, paediatric or gynaecological problems, backlogs caused by inappropriate case management through ignorance of NHS systems leading to, for example, wasteful, inappropriate hospital admissions.”

Backing the motion, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: “This is not an anti-foreign doctor motion, it’s a pro-patient safety motion.”

The motion, which called for doctors coming to the UK to have a good command of English, to have knowledge of UK medical practice and the NHS, was passed unanimously.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “There is no doubt that out-of-hours care needs urgent reform. GPs are best placed to ensure patients get the care they need, when they need it. That is why it is vital that GPs have responsibility for commissioning of OOH services.

“We will empower GPs in this way to ensure that patients receive better services.”