New out-of-hours care row

FELIXSTOWE: Health campaigners are today furious that patients are being forced to travel from Felixstowe to Ipswich to see an out-of-hours doctor.

Before Harmoni HS Ltd took over the service, GPs were based for several hours at the resort’s hospital at weekends.

But the doctors were removed as part of the new contract – with health bosses saying there would “always be a doctor within 30 minutes’ driving time”.

Now it appears that pledge did not mean a doctor would travel to Felixstowe during that time.

Instead, Harmoni has confirmed that the “30 minutes” related to the time it should take a patient to drive to the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich.

Roy Gray, chairman of Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals Action Group, which is deeply disappointed at the removal of weekend doctors from the hospital in Constable Road, said he would be contacting the health authority about the situation.

“My understanding was that a doctor would always be able to get to an appointment in Felixstowe with a patient in 30 minutes – though we were dubious about how they could guarantee that,” he said.

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“Now I have been contacted by people who have been told their appointment is at Riverside. One woman did not have a car and had to rely on relatives to be able to drop everything to take her.

“We have an excellent minor injuries unit here in Felixstowe and we want our GP cover here – we don’t want people to have to keep driving up and down the A14 to see doctors. That is not good enough.”

Town and district councillor Mike Ninnmey said: “It is an appalling situation for a town of our size. It puts a real question mark over the future of our hospital if people are having to travel 14 miles for treatment.”

Harmoni’s director of development, Penny Flack, said: “When it is deemed that a patient needs to see a GP face-to-face, our commitment is that a patient will never be more 30 minutes’ driving time of a base where a GP will see them. I suspect this is where some confusion has arisen among patients.

“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.

“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.”

n Should Felixstowe residents have to travel to Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail