News : Ludlow ‘Out of Hours' GP Call Line Row
Ludlow, England, Feb 19, 2016 -- A major row has erupted after health chiefs announced that the Shropdoc out-of-hours doctor phone line will be shut down by the end of the year.
Ludlow GP Dr Catherine Beanland is in the vanguard of the protests against the move and has launched a petition while health campaigners are outraged by the decision.
However, health chiefs say the main change is that there will be a single, easily remembered number and that patients can be transferred directly to Shropdoc instead of waiting to be called back.
The Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group say that the Shropdoc service will continue until at least 2018.
According to the Clinical Commissioning Group it means that eventually patients will have just one number to ring – NHS 111 - if they want to access advice or reassurance, need to speak to a doctor or nurse, or need to see an Out-of-Hours (OOH) GP.
The 111 number will be linked to a local hub. Out-of-hours GPs will continue to be provided by the existing provider, Shropdoc, until at least 2018.
Health chiefs say that 111 is an easily remembered number and it had been decided nationally that this should be used for urgent care calls and that more than 30,000 people have used the number in Shropshire in the past year.
Callers will initially be assessed by trained call handlers. Then options can include being transferred to a nurse or GP for further advice, arranging an appointment with a GP or a home visit. If the call is assessed as being an emergency, an ambulance will be sent straight away.
"With increasing numbers of local people calling 111 it is absolutely the right time to fully integrate our out-of-hours services with NHS 111 in line with new national NHS commissioning guidelines," said Dr Helen Herrity, chair of the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
"It means we will be able to provide a service that is simpler to access but still has a high degree of specialist local clinical knowledge.
"We know that people value the service provided by Shropdoc. The plans approved today ensure Shropdoc will continue to provide the OOH service until at least 2018 and the Shropdoc number will continue until the boards of both CCGs are assured that NHS111 delivers the required quality of service for patients."
But Joyce Brand of the Ludlow-based ‘Save our NHS in Shropshire Group’ is not convinced.
"Essentially, this decision removes the right from a patient to speak directly to a doctor at the time of a serious health crisis," she said.
"At present, our Shropdoc arrangement is that the call goes straight through to the Shropdoc team, is answered by an experienced and local co-ordinator, not one of several poorly trained operators at a call centre somewhere in the Midlands.
"There is immediate access to the doctors on duty both for advice and for a call, if necessary to be made without delay.
"My own experience recently was that a doctor visited a terminally ill patient who had been sent home from an outpatient appointment with no pain relief, no oxygen supply and no community service arranged.
"Shropdoc was there within the hour bringing morphine and oxygen and had made arrangements for the Macmillan nurse.
"Essentially, 111 is the ideal way to ensure that the emergency service can be packaged into regional provision which only enormous companies will be in a position to bid for."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Shropshire Doctors Co-operative Ltd (Shropdoc) provides medical services.
Published: Monday, February 22, 2016