If you’re ill in the Fens or East Cambs at night then expect to be ‘significantly disadvantaged and face unacceptable delays’ if you need a doctor

Axing most of the out of hours provision at Doddington Hospital (photo) and at Princess of Wales in

Axing most of the out of hours provision at Doddington Hospital (photo) and at Princess of Wales in Ely could have devastating consequences, health chiefs have been warned., Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Staff working for out-of-hours GP health teams at Ely and Doddington that will be axed in the autumn claim patients face “unacceptable delays” if the changes go ahead.

Although not confirmed the likelihood is that out-of-hours GP provision at North Cambs Hospital, Wisbech, will also come to an end at the same time.

A circular has been sent to all local councillors from 'concerned staff' at Herts Urgent Care (HUC), the company that provides the out-of-hours covers across much of Cambridgeshire.

"These changes are imminent and will happen if no local actions are taken," says the circular. "Staff have already been given notice of change of their work patterns and even redundancy if these roster changes cannot be agreed."

Currently out-of-hours GP cover is provided from Addenbrooke's Hospital, Peterborough City Care Centre, Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Doddington Hospital and the Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely.

From October 1, says the Herts Urgent Care staff, "significant cuts" will see the Ely and Doddington centres removed from the out-of-hours provision.

Patients who can go there on weekdays and on Fridays from throughout the weekend - basically all the times the daytime GP practices are closed.

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Scrapping the service - apart from five hours at Doddington on Saturdays and Sundays and eight hours on Saturday and Sundays at Ely - represents a cut of over 80 per cent in service provision.

"The result of this change will be that patients will have to make long journeys to appointments at the three remaining centres and all home visiting clinicians will have to travel from the larger centres," says the circular.

"In short, for choosing to live outside of Cambridge, Peterborough and Huntingdon patients will be disadvantaged and face unacceptable delays in accessing urgent out-of-hours care."

The Herts staff added: "There has been no public scrutiny of consultation."

Their statement added that removing or down grading services such as this at local hospitals makes the provision of other services at these sites "vulnerable". They fear that in the not too distant future both sites could be deemed "no longer used sufficiently".

David Archer, HUC chief executive officer, said: "Re-deployment of resources during the week from Ely and Doddington bases would be moved into larger, busier bases at Peterborough and Cambridge.

"This revised model has been approved by the CCG, which we feel will have a positive impact on the service."

"There are still a couple of outstanding elements that need to be agreed but we hope we can include Wisbech as part of the mobilisation of the new service," Mr Archer adds.

"This is a really big opportunity for HUC and it has only been made possible through the hard work and dedication of every clinician, operational staff member and the local management team who have worked tirelessly to provide a safe and effective service for patients."

Simon Ingate, head of urgent care Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: "I would like to take the opportunity to assure you that we recognise that this is an unsettling time, however it is important that we meet patient demand and provide a safe and effective service."

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said: "Patients can only access the GP out of hours service through NHS 111.

"We constantly monitor the use of all our Out of Hours GP services to ensure we meet patient demand which fluctuates all the time, and to ensure the most efficient use of our limited GP resources.

"As a result of this there are times when a GP will not be located at all our bases simultaneously.

"However, the nearest base will be kept open alongside a mobile home visiting service.

"Patients will be advised which Out of Hours base to attend for the earliest appointment by the NHS 111 Clinical advisor or will be given a home visit if appropriate.

"This has never affected the opening hours of the Minor Injury Units."