Dunwich: Anger as terminally-ill patient has to wait eight hours to see a doctor

THE husband of a terminally-ill woman has spoken of his anger After his wife endured an eight-hour wait to see an on-call doctor on Saturday.

Despite contacting the service, run by private firm Harmoni on behalf of NHS Suffolk, at 2.15pm it was not until 10pm that a doctor arrived at the home of Dave and Reverend Elizabeth Cole in Dunwich.

Rev Cole, 68, has an inoperable brain tumour and began feeling unwell on Saturday, prompting a friend who is a nurse to call for a doctor.

Mr Cole, a retired Shell engineer, said it had been “very upsetting” to be left waiting for so long.

He said: “It’s very upsetting for her but just as upsetting for the carer. There’s me being very anxious about when they’re going to come and that my wife is in pain.

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“I am acutely aware that for 70% of the time when my wife could need medical help our GP service is not available to us - as a consequence we are very likely to require out of hours help in the future.

“Since the service provided is totally inadequate, from now on I will have no hesitation in making a 999 call and reluctantly my wife may have to endure an hour’s journey to hospital in an ambulance when as in this recent incident a hospital visit was not required.

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“I have been told that this is not an isolated incident. The current Suffolk Doctors out of hour’s service is a disgrace and seriously needs overhaul.”

Mr Cole, also 68, said his local GP surgery had been fantastic throughout his wife’s illness and he had nothing but praise for them but was angry that he “could have flown to New York” in the time it took the on-call doctor to arrive.

He said there was some confusion between the nurse and the operator about an ambulance but the confusion only made matters worse.

Suffolk MP Dr Daniel Poulter said it was an issue he had experienced “many times” and that the change from out-of-hours GP services to an on-call company had been the “biggest disaster” in medicine in the past decade.

He said that during his work in A & E departments, he had been on the “receiving end” of people who had chosen to head straight to hospital rather than wait for an on-call doctor to arrive.

He said: “The biggest single disaster, in my view, in terms of care provision over the past decade was putting off out-of-hours care from local GPs and this is exactly another terrible example of why this is the case.

“I have people writing to me with similar stories about how the out-of-hours care service introduced a few years ago just doesn’t work.”

He said the problem was particularly relevant to rural areas and that society was “living with the consequences” of a “terrible decision”.

Last night a spokesperson for Harmoni said: “We are very sorry Mr and Mrs Cole found their experience of the out-of-hours service less than satisfactory.

“Although we have not received a complaint from the couple, we are now investigating their criticisms. We would not wish to comment further until we have fully investigated what happened, after which we will be very happy to share our findings with Mr and Mrs Cole.”

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