Background: RGPs (regular general practitioners) are obliged to take on duties in the out-of-hours services in Norway, but they actually perform less than half of this work. We wished to compare remuneration claims for out-of-hours work from RGPs with those from other doctors.
Material and methods: The Norwegian Labour and Welfare administration provided information about all doctors working in the out-of-hours services in Norway in 2006 (4 729 of whom 2 220 were RGPs) and coupled this with the remuneration they had claimed in this period.
Results: RGPs had 46.6 % of all patient contacts in the out-of-hours services, but more telephone contacts (57.4 %) and simple/short contacts (50.7 %) than other doctors. Other doctors had most contacts in the largest (59.8 %) and most central (56.7 %) municipalities and used general and unspecific diagnoses more often than the RGPs (12.6 % of all consultations vs. 11.0 %). Older doctors used fewer fees than younger doctors, but otherwise the total number of fees only differed slightly between various groups of doctors. Newly qualified doctors serving their compulsory practice period claimed extra remuneration for long consultations in 41.2 % of the cases, RGPs who are also general practice specialists in 20.2 % of cases, and other doctors in 35.7 % of the consultations. RGPs wrote sick notes more often (7.1 % of consultations) than newly qualified doctors (5.7 %) and other doctors (6.6 %). General practice specialists wrote sick notes most often (7.4 %).
Interpretation: Experienced RGPs and general practice specialists spend less time per patient than other doctors in the out-of-hours services.