NHS urged to tackle failings in out-of-hours GPs services across Yorkshire

CONCERNS: A review found significant clinical risk for patients seeking care out of hours.
CONCERNS: A review found significant clinical risk for patients seeking care out of hours.
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NHS chiefs have been urged to tackle serious failings in vital out-of-hours GP services covering two million people in the region amid warnings of “unacceptable” queues for treatment.

An independent review found delays were leading to “significant clinical risk” in services for patients seeking night-time and weekend care in the face of demand 50 per cent higher than expected.

Barely half of emergency cases are being seen by doctors within a national target of an hour, including some waits of as much as five hours.

The report was ordered after officials declared an unprecedented “black alert”, triggering the temporary diversion of emergency and urgent cases to A&E units when it became clear the West Yorkshire Urgent Care out-of-hours service could no longer cope.

An 18-point plan has been drawn up to carry out immediate improvements ahead of major changes to urgent and emergency care provision in years ahead.

But NHS bosses are refusing to disclose the full scale of failings in services for 2.3 million people in West Yorkshire and Craven amid claims “commercial interests” outweigh public interest in the safety of care.

Difficulties have beset the service since it was set up in 2013 but these reached a peak over the Easter weekend last year when staff were overwhelmed as a third of the number of patients expected over a month sought treatment within just four days.

Despite extra funding since the crisis, delays have persisted in the service, which dealt with 243,000 cases in 2016-17.

Latest figures for the six months to October show only half of cases classed as emergencies were seen with the target of an hour and only about 60 per cent of urgent patients saw a clinician within the expected two hours. In some cases, patients given emergency priority do not see a clinician for five hours.

The expert review said delays had led to “significant clinical risk in the current service”.

“And it seems that those within the system have become inured to the risk,” it added.

Last night, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which is responsible for provision of the out-of-hours service, said patient safety remained its “highest priority”.

“Additional investment has been made in the service and this has supported increased staffing levels to meet demand,” said a spokesman.