Talks over the future of minor injury unit

IPSWICH: Health bosses are in talks over the future of the town’s minor injury unit, The Evening Star can today reveal.

The Riverside Clinic in Landseer Road is operated by the out-of-hours provider in Suffolk, Harmoni HS.

But it has emerged NHS Suffolk, the county’s primary care trust, are in talks with local GPs and other health professionals to discuss the best way of providing care in east Suffolk.

The news comes as North Ipswich and Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter accused Harmoni of providing a failing service, believing it was leaving Ipswich Hospital to “pick up the pieces”.

While a source told The Evening Star NHS Suffolk and Harmoni were having “difficulties” the primary care trust moved to deny the claim.

Tracy Dowling, NHS Suffolk’s director of strategic commissioning, said: “We are very pleased with the improved service that the Harmoni HS out-of-hours service is providing.”

A meeting between Harmoni and NHS Suffolk, due to take place this week, is set to discuss the reorganisation of the out-of-hours bases across Suffolk, with the future of Wickham Market, Aldeburgh and Newmarket in doubt, according to a source.

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But NHS Suffolk moved to reassure people that they would still require Harmoni to meet the target of patients being seen within half-an-hour.

Ms Dowling added: “They (Harmoni) are reviewing their bases to ensure they can get maximum coverage. We will continue to require them to meet the contractual standard that the patient can be seen within 30 minutes travel time.”

Addressing the issue of the future of The Riverside Clinic she added: “We are currently in discussion with GPs and clinicians regarding the best model of care for patients in east Suffolk.”

But MP Dr Dan Poulter urged the two health bodies to ensure greater access to out-of-hours services was delivered to patients in rural areas.

He said: “I am already concerned the out-of-hours service in Suffolk is not fit for purpose.

“We need to be looking at how we can make out-of-hours care more available to patients particularly in more rural areas.

“The challenge is to make sure we have adequate care for people in the community and to make sure this is delivered in an effective way.”

He said over the last 12 years the number of admissions to Ipswich Hospital has risen by 10,000 patients.

“The reason for the increase is, I believe, that the out-of-hours services hasn’t been performing properly,” said Dr Poulter. “Patients don’t know where to go for out-of-hours care and are not sure of it.

“There were concerns at the time the contract was negotiated with Harmoni that it was a commerical contract not one based around the needs of the patients.

“This places an unnecessary stress on the hospital. I believe the out-of-hours service is broken and needs to be fixed.’’

He went on to claim: “Ipswich Hospital is picking up the pieces of a failing out-of-hours service.”

A spokesman for Harmoni said a recent patient survey, carried out by Suffolk LINk, has revealed the majority of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with the service. The survey included patients’ views on getting through on the phone, call handling, treatment and the time it takes to speak to a clinician.

n What do you think about the out-of-hours service in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or you can e-mail eveningstarletters@ eveningstar.co.uk

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