Out of Hours Patients' Health Fears

Article excerpt

Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

Patients' health is being compromised by a catalogue of failings at one of Wales' busiest out of hours services, it was warned last night.

Health experts and politicians have raised serious concerns about the privately-run out of hours service in Cardiff.

It has emerged that patients are waiting more than half a day for urgent GP attention after contac- ting the service.

A leading health professional described the delays in dealing with telephone calls from sick patients as a 'major area of clinical risk'.

Plaid Cymru's shadow health minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas said he was concerned that doctors who are not fully qualified as GPs are working at the service, run by Healthcare Services 24.

He has called for an immediate inquiry into the service.

Cardiff Local Health Board, which awarded the contract to the company, said a review of the service had been carried out and the results would form the basis of an action plan.

Unannounced inspections of the out of hours service by Cardiff Community Health Council, over the Easter bank holiday, uncovered a series of concerns about the service, including:

Patients waiting more than five hours for a call back after contacting the out of hours service;

Patients attending the University Hospital of Wales' emergency unit because they do not receive a call back from the out of hours service;

One patient contacting the service at 9.50am but not being seen until 12.35am the next day;

Prescriptions issued but patients not told where they can get their medication when pharmacies are closed over holiday periods, and

Drugs being kept in boxes in the consulting room and prescriptions handwritten.

The Western Mail also understands that the prescribing lead for Cardiff LHB has resigned over concerns about prescribing medication from the out of hours provider.

Bro Taf Local Medical Committee (LMC) raised concerns that doctors who were not GPs were regularly working for the service.

In a letter to Cardiff LHB, former LMC chair Dr Susan Pierrepoint, said, 'It has been reported to us that doctors who are not GPs are regularly working for the service - this could lead to a poorer service and decision making. …