Halesworth: Out-of-hours GP service criticised

SUFFOLK’S out-of-hours care provider has vowed to review practices after a complaint over the length of time a patient was left waiting for an ambulance.

Relatives of a 74-year-old woman complained to the out-of-hours GP service Harmoni after a mix-up left her waiting three hours for a non-emergency ambulance.

The woman, who did not want to be named, fell while trying to get out of a chair at a care home in Halesworth.

“She is very frail and she suffers from osteoporosis,” said her friend Sally Cockerill, who is her next of kin. “That is why she is in the home.”

A doctor from Harmoni was visiting another resident at Bupa’s Highfield home and was asked by staff to take a look at the patient.

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“She was in pain, not raging pain but we were aware there was something wrong with her leg,” said Miss Cockerill, 64, who was called by staff after the accident.

“The doctor suspected she may have fractured her hip and told us to call Harmoni for a non-emergency ambulance.”

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The call was made at 12.45pm, and she claimed at 2.40pm they were still waiting.

“I rang Harmoni back and they couldn’t find any record of her on the system. She said she would ring me back in 10 minutes once the ambulance was on its way.

“She didn’t and at 2.55pm I rang 999. They were very helpful and an ambulance arrived in 25 minutes.”

X-rays confirmed the patient had chipped a bone in her hip.

“I feel we were let down,” said Miss Cockerill.

“She was quite unfit to travel by car and we had no choice. I feel let down by Harmoni.

“We waited for more than two hours and I believe that they had not even called an ambulance.”

A spokesman for Harmoni said: “We are very sorry the patient has found the service provided by Harmoni less than satisfactory.

“Patient confidentiality must be maintained at all times, and we are therefore awaiting her permission to launch a full investigation.

“However, our initial findings suggest an element of confusion over a request for a non-urgent ambulance to transport her to hospital.

“This investigation will provide us with an opportunity to review our processes to ensure they are as patient-friendly as possible.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that we have processes in place for a very good reason, namely to ensure the service works effectively in line with strict national quality standards.

“Ultimately, however, our aim is to treat patients as though they were family and provide them with the best care experience possible.”

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