Call for out-of-hours doctor cover in resort over holiday

FELIXSTOWE: Health campaigners are demanding that out-of-hours doctors are sent to the resort this weekend as it prepares for one of its biggest annual influxes of visitors.

They say with 20,000 people attending the historic vehicle rally, 700 taking part in a fun run and thousands coming to launch the resort’s new coastal path, it would be “madness” if there were no GPs available.

Residents have been told that if they want to see a doctor they must travel up the A14 to the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich.

At the Easter weekend, Harmoni HS Ltd, the firm that took over the out-of-hours GP service on April 1, struggled to cope with the high demand, but this time around, they claim they are more prepared.

Harmoni has offered to meet members of the Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals Action Group to discuss their concerns over cover during the holiday weekend.

Group chairman Roy Gray said: “We will be happy to meet them and talk and see what they are going to do about putting doctors back into Felixstowe.

“In the meantime, I have written to ask them to send doctors here to Felixstowe Community Hospital this weekend.

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“It is a bank holiday and there will be a huge number of people in town – it would be madness to leave that many people with no GP in case something happens.”

Andrew Gardner, chief executive of Harmoni, said: “We have issues in the service that need fixing. We are working through the list and crossing them off. I would doubt the service would be as high quality as I would like [this bank holiday weekend] but it will be a safe service. As time goes on, we will gradually improve it.”

Penny Flack, Harmoni’s director of development, said: “We are working very closely with other NHS providers across Suffolk to ensure a seamless service is in place and we are committing extra resources based on the peak demand over the Easter weekend.

“We have added an additional visiting GP car, bringing the total availability to ten cars.”

Ms Flack has been in touch with Mr Gray and has agreed to attend a meeting to explain the company’s contractual obligations and procedures.

“Whenever possible, we will arrange for a GP to see the patient in Felixstowe, but there may be occasions when the patient will get to see a GP more quickly by travelling to the Ipswich base,” she said. “If a patient is unable to travel to Ipswich, an allotted appointment will be made taking into account the patient’s particular circumstances including clinical needs.”

? Should Felixstowe residents have to travel to Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.