Health bosses have promised a review of Angus out-of-hours cover following concerns sick patients have had to wait too long for an ambulance carrying expert cover.
Operation of the See and Treat service provided by Angus Health and Social Care Partnership has come under scrutiny after complaints about the set-up led an MSP to question whether it is “fit for purpose”.
The service dispatches GPs to callouts with paramedics, after they have been screened by NHS Tayside’s out-of-hours service.
North East Scotland MSP Liam Kerr raised constituent concerns with AHSCP chief officer Vicky Irons and has been told there were five occasions since November when triaged calls could not be covered “due to staff call offs at short notice and inability to cover shift at short notice.”
She said the partnership is “reviewing the provision of services for people in need of care out-of-hours and to support the call outs.”
Conservative Mr Kerr described the number as “small but substantial” considering there have been an average of 2.26 calls per night since issues were first reported.
“It looks like there is a problem with the system and not the people working in it,” he said.
“I have heard that doctors are having to wait too long for ambulances to arrive. Many of the people they want to see are at the end of their lives or are otherwise in great pain.
“Thanks to Ms Irons’ intervention, I’m confident the health partnership are taking this very seriously.”
In his correspondence, Mr Kerr highlighted a variety of changes to out-of-hours care in Angus since 2004.
At that time, minor injury units (MIU) in Forfar, Brechin, Montrose and Arbroath were supplemented by GPs with drivers, plus two teams of district nurses, before this was trimmed to one.
Overnight services in all MIUs bar Arbroath were then closed as they were lightly used.
A spokesperson for the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership said, “If patients have a non-emergency problem which cannot wait until GP surgeries reopen, they should contact NHS 24 on 111.
“If, following a medical need assessment, any patient requires to see a doctor or other healthcare professional, NHS 24 will arrange for either a home visit, or the patient to be seen at a local healthcare facility or, in some instances, the patient to travel to the specialist Primary Care Emergency Centre at Kings Cross in Dundee. Assistance with travel there will be provided as required.
“People who require care out-of-hours will be seen by the most appropriate healthcare professional.
“This could be a nurse or GP or other suitably trained professional, and this will ensure that the individual is seen by the right person at the right time.”