Welsh LMCs Conference: Out-of-hours cuts have put patients at risk, warn LMCs

LMCs in Wales have warned that plans to cut the cost of out-of-hours services are putting patients at risk.

Dr Rayani: high quality care
Dr Rayani: high quality care

GPs at the Welsh LMCs conference last week called for more funding for out-of-hours care and warned local health boards (LHBs) were asking GPs to 'refuse to triage patients' or asking non-clinical staff to triage calls.

GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said the profession was not prepared to take back 24-hour responsibility. His comments came after Wales' Labour government pledged last year to deliver 'improved access to GP surgeries in the evenings and on Saturday mornings'.

Bridgend GP Dr Sherard Le Maitre said GPs were told by one unnamed LHB to reduce demand by refusing to triage patients. He said: 'To suggest you shouldn't triage is not appropriate. We should send a clear message that there should be proper funding.'

Cardiff GP Dr Sarah Morgan said one clinical adviser had suggested giving non-clinical call handlers a list of conditions and if patients presented with those problems, they would be refused an appointment.

She told GP: 'The out-of-hours service is safe because it is run by clinicians. We know what is best for patients. Clinicians know the right questions to ask. A non-clinical call handler may think it is an ingrowing toenail and refuse them an appointment, whereas if I ask the right question I can find out that it is cellulitis and that it is an emergency.'

She added that the NHS had underestimated the cost of providing out-of-hours care when GPs opted out and providers came in to offer services at 'nearly commercial rates'.

Swansea GP Dr Ashok Rayani called for an increase in out-of-hours funding. He added: 'We need to demonstrate that we want to provide good care.'

GP contacted all seven LHBs in Wales. None of the four that replied said they asked clinicians not to triage calls. But a spokesman for Aneurin Bevan LHB said the board felt 'not all patients need clinical triage'.

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