Concerns over out-of-hours health service

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Leading GPs have expressed concerns about an out-of-hours healthcare service in the wake of increases in hospital A&E attendance.

During a meeting of the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group governing body, Dr Rakesh Raja, joint lead for Sudbury, said patients had ‘lost confidence and faith’ in the out-of-hours service and the ‘default with most patients’ is to go to A&E.

Dr Christopher Browning, chairman of the CCG, said when dialling the 111 service patients ‘end up discussing matters which they know are not relevant’.

Through 111, patients can be signposted to the out-of-hours GP service. They are both managed by provider Harmoni.

The meeting heard that attendance at West Suffolk Hospital’s A&E by the end of 2012/13 was 7.6 per cent above plan.

After the meeting, Dr Ed Garratt, chief operating officer of the CCG, described the 111 service as ‘very thorough’. He said a recent review of the out-of-hours service showed that it was ‘safe’.

A spokesman for Harmoni said both services offer a ‘robust and reliable way to access advice and treatment without the need to go to A&E for non emergency needs’.