Anger at 20-mile trip to emergency GP

HEALTH chiefs have come under fire from furious residents who complain they could soon face a 20-mile journey to see a doctor out-of-hours.People living in Haverhill say they are getting the thin end of the wedge when out-of-hours GP services are changed later this year.

HEALTH chiefs have come under fire from furious residents who complain they could soon face a 20-mile journey to see a doctor out-of-hours.

People living in Haverhill say they are getting the thin end of the wedge when out-of-hours GP services are changed later this year.

Residents and councillors believe that, with a rapidly growing population, their town has as much right to doorstep care as any other.

From October, the West Suffolk Primary Care Trust will take over the running of the out-of-hours services.


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Although GPs will still cover the whole area, they will be based in Bury St Edmunds rather than in individual towns and villages.

Objections to the proposals were aired at a recent Haverhill Town Council meeting, when a further public meeting was called for to debate the issue in more detail.

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Last night Haverhill town councillor Gerry Kiernan said: “As a council we strongly questioned the principles behind the change.

“It is a real worry that at some times of the night people may be asked to travel from Haverhill to Bury to see a doctor.

“There are no forms of public transport at these times and not everyone has access to a car. If people have to travel to Bury anyway then they might as well go straight to the accident and emergency unit at West Suffolk Hospital.

“The council has agreed to monitor the plans closely when they come into force, and we will be writing to the PCT with a list of concerns that we expect answers to.”

Margaret Marks, local resident and First Responder co-ordinator, which operates as a back up for the emergency services, said she is also deeply concerned about the proposals.

“Health care is so important and the people of Haverhill deserve to have the same service that other people get,” she said.

“This cut in services will not only affect people in Haverhill, but those living in the surrounding villages who also use the town's services.

“If someone has a life threatening condition then they need to be seen immediately. Once they are in capable hands they can wait for an ambulance to take them to hospital, but it is no good if that person has to travel all the way to Bury in the first place.

“It seems as though people in Bury will be getting the best of both services, while Haverhill will be left without any.”

But the trust's chief executive Tony Ranzetta said recently the approach to out-of-hours services had been chosen as the best way to provide safe and effective care for patients outside of normal hours.

“Between midnight and 8am, doctors receive relatively few calls from patients - for a town the size of Sudbury or Haverhill, the average is around three calls a night.

“It makes sense to match the number of GPs with the demands of the service, and this can best be done centrally,” he said.

He also explained 60% of night-time calls to doctors were resolved by the GP giving advice over the phone.

But people in Haverhill are yet to be convinced.

Mrs Marks added: “We have been told that the PCT will analyse the busiest times for out-of-hours doctors to determine exactly when the service will be operated from Bury, but they are talking about human beings who can become ill at any time of the night and day and it is just ludicrous.”

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