Staff raise fears over out-of-hours GP service at Doddington but health bosses say no decision has been made
Local health bosses have denied there are any plans to cut the out-of-hours GP service in Fenland – despite the fact staff have been told there will be job changes.
In a letter passed to the Citizen, staff who man the out-of-hours service at Doddington and Ely, which provides cover for when doctors’ surgeries are closed, claim Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who fund the service, were looking to cut opening hours by nearly 80 per cent.
Consultation between staff and Hertfordshire Urgent Care (HUC), which provides the service, was underway on changes to their work patterns and potential redundancy if the new roster changes could not be agreed.
The letter, which was sent to all councillors in Fenland and East Cambs, was a call to arms urging them to “take action now, using the local and regional media, council meetings and committees, public pressure groups, lobbying members of parliament.
“In short any means possible to reverse these changes, which will come into effect on October 1.”
The letter claimed the out-of-hours service, which is based at Doddington Hospital, was facing a massive cut from being open 115.5 hours a week to just 10 hours.
It is currently open from 6pm to 8am Monday to Friday and then all weekend. The changes the staff say were being proposed would see it only open 10am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday.
HUC provides the service at five centres, including Doddington Hospital, Ely Princess of Wales Hospital, Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Addenbrooke’s and Peterborough City Care Centre.
According to staff the cut would result in patients from the March, Chatteris and surrounding area of Fenland covered by the out-of-hours service at Doddington being forced to make long journeys to appointments at the remaining three centres at Huntingdon, Peterborough or Cambridge.
Doctors carrying out home visits to the area would also have to travel from those centres.
The staff say: “In short, for choosing to live outside Cambridge, Peterborough and Huntingdon, patients from your ward will be significantly disadvantaged and face unacceptable delays in accessing urgent care out-of-hours.”
Staff said: “The cuts have been agreed between the CCG and HUC without public consultation and are significantly to the detriment of residents.”
Fenland councillor Dave Patrick accused the CCG of being devious and trying to force the changes through without consultation and said it would be harder to reverse a decision than to stop the cuts from being made in the first place.
And he fears that Wisbech, which is currently unaffected as its out-of-hours service is provided by a different provider, will be next.
“This is deeply concerning. The CCG have been very devious, trying to force these changes through without public consultation and that is unacceptable,”
Coun Peter Hudson, chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s health committee, is asking for urgent clarification over the plans being formulated by the CCG.
He said: "I am deeply concerned regarding the reduction in services being proposed by the CCG. They have not consulted with local councillors or with our health committee, which has a statutory responsibility to scrutinise changes to the local health care, particularly those that affect local people.
“Let’s be clear, the out of hours GP services play a critical role in both Fenland and Ely where there are no others services of this nature. The ramifications are that the CCG will be short-changing communities that are already disadvantaged in terms of health. If these reports are true, we will be sticking up for local people.”
Despite the strong evidence from staff the CCG were yesterday (Tuesday) denying any changes had been agreed.
Jan Thomas, the CCG’s accountable officer, said: “We would like to emphasise that no decisions have been made about the out of hours service. Any proposals regarding the out of hours bases will have full impact assessments completed, and we will engage with stakeholders before any decisions are made.
“The staff consultation with Herts Urgent Care’s staff has been stopped, until we have all had an opportunity to speak with patients and local residents.”
A spokesman for the CCG denied the authority had tried to push the changes through without public consultation and said there were “legalities” that needed to be followed.
She said there were no plans to go to consultation yet and a full assessment would be carried out before that happened.