Out-of-hours service struggling to cope

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Patients waiting for urgent medical attention faced delays in their care after an out-of-hours NHS service was swamped with calls.

Fewer than half of patients needing an emergency appointment when GP surgeries were closed were seen within one hour by the district’s Local Care Direct service.

Latest figures show 49.5 per cent got a face-to-face consultation within an hour when the target was 95 per cent.

Just 63.7 per cent of those classed as needing “urgent” appointments were seen within the target time of two hours.

For patients with less urgent needs, 93 per cent were seen within six hours against a target of 95 per cent.

The figures for the third quarter of 2014-15 show the service was struggling to fulfil its requirements under contract to the NHS and was unlikely to meet its targets for the full financial year.

A report to the last meeting of Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which controls the district’s NHS budget, classed this as a “serious risk”.

The risk register report said the service faced “significantly” higher demand than was expected under the contract “resulting in delays to patient care”.

Local Care Direct provides a walk-in centre, where patients can be seen without a GP appointment between 8am and 8pm seven days a week, on King Street and out-of-hours services from Trinity Medical Centre, on Thornhill Street.

The CCG report said an action plan had been put in place to improve the out-of-hours service.

Dr Adam Sheppard, the CCG’s clinical lead for urgent care, said: “We are working with the people who provide the out-of-hours service to improve how long patients wait for urgent appointments after they’ve rung in.

“We know this is challenging because the numbers of calls is going up, but the people who take the calls are able to assess the situation and refer each individual to the most appropriate care for their needs.”

Local Care Direct did not respond to a request for a comment.