Changes urged over medical cover

Changes need to be made to out of hours medical care to ensure those in rural areas are getting the best service, it is claimed today.

SUFFOLK: Changes need to be made to out of hours medical care to ensure those in rural areas are getting the best service, it is claimed today.

The concerns by Suffolk councillors have been raised ahead of next Wednesday's Health Scrutiny Committee meeting, where the out of hours service, run by Take Care Now (TCN), will be discussed.

The committee will also be studying the findings of NHS Suffolk's consultation report on Improving Out of Hours Care.

The report, which is a result of a 12-week consultation exercise, reveals that some members of the public said they received a good quality of care, whereas others claimed the service was poor as they experienced incorrect diagnoses and difficulties in getting through to a doctor.

Bryan Hall, a Suffolk Coastal District councillor, said: “We are hoping that the scrutiny committee will insist there has to be a local provider for out of hours service for rural areas without the necessity to go to Ipswich. It is much further than 30 minutes to Ipswich from Framlingham for example, and difficult for people who not have a car.”

There is no obligation to provide an out of hours service from any given points but patients within the catchment area must be seen by a doctor within 30 minutes from when the call is received.

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At present there is rarely a doctor available at the resource centre in Wickham Market outside normal working hours, meaning people have to go to the Riverside Clinic in Landseer Road.

Bids for a new contract are currently being evaluated and will start in April 2010.

David Cocks, chief executive of TCN, said: “We work with those doctors who are prepared to practise out-of-hours to ensure our shifts are filled. However, occasionally shifts remain unfilled. When this happens we employ extra staff to ensure the service patients receive still meets these national guidelines.”

What has your experience of out of hours service been like? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.