Suffolk: Out-of-hours care service coped with festive period

SUFFOLK: The region’s out-of-hours health service was inundated with more than 4,000 calls during the festive period, but health chiefs say they coped with demand “admirably well”.

Between Christmas Eve and Tuesday’s Bank Holiday, Harmoni received 4,314 calls, in what has been described as the busiest period since taking over the running of the service in April this year.

On Christmas Day, 501 patients from across Suffolk contacted the health service, while on Boxing Day the figure increased to 970.

On Bank Holiday Monday, the amount of callers jumped to 1,200, and the following day increased further to 1,400. The majority of calls were from people with cold and flu symptoms.

YeeLee Wright, Suffolk General Manager for Harmoni, said that staff had worked efficiently, while additional GPs were called upon to assist with calls, there were “very few grumbles” from patients.

The health boss added: “Since Easter we have worked very hard to improve the service, a fact recognised by the East of England Strategic Health Authority in its recent review.

“We were prepared for increased levels of activity over Christmas but the demand, not just in Suffolk, but right across the country, was even greater than anyone could have anticipated.

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“Considering the huge volume of calls we were taking, the system coped admirably well.”

Meanwhile, the East of England Ambulance Service has also praised staff for tackling the dramatic rise in calls over the Christmas period.

Across the East of England there were more than 6,000 call-outs between 12am on Christmas Eve and midnight on December 26 - a 5.4pc increase on the same period last year and an even higher increase on incidents deemed life-threatening.