People encouraged to use out-of-hours GPs instead of 999

BUSY The Queen Alexandra Hospital.
BUSY The Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Music session gets QA Hospital patients out of beds

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PATIENTS are being urged to call out-of-hours doctors before dialling for an ambulance to relieve pressure on Portsmouth’s A&E.

The GP out-of-hours service used to be run by Solent NHS Trust.

But since October this year, it is being run by Care UK and Portsmouth Health Limited, and is known as Hampshire Doctors On Call. It runs from 6.30pm to 8am.

Medical director of the out-of-hours service Dr Tim Wright explained how the service works at a Portsmouth City Council health, overview and scrutiny panel meeting.

He said: ‘A call comes into us and then we make a clinical decision.

‘We can go and visit the patient, give advice over the phone or refer them somewhere.

‘We have four doctors working in Queen Alexandra Hospital to see patients.

‘We also have 13 cars across the county for home visits.

‘We are working closely with the acute hospital trust and had a meeting to see how inappropriate patients can be seen by GPs in the out-of-hours service.

‘There are patients that need to be at home rather than in A&E.

‘We are doing our best, but there’s a lot more we can do to make this work.’

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust runs QA and said that it has seen an increase of patients in the A&E department.

Its medical director Simon Holmes said: ‘I would agree that there is increased attendance (to A&E) and this has been going on for a number of months.

‘That mirrors what is happening nationally.

‘There seems to be a change in the behaviour of patients, who seem to come to the A&E department, instead of using other services.

‘The problem we have is that the emergency department can see about 270 patients a day.

‘But if that goes over, then it affects other departments in the hospital such as blood sciences.

‘We have patients that we call “frequent flyers” who don’t call the out-of-hours service, but come straight to us.’

Nationally, the Department of Health is working on a new number to be used when you need medical help fast, but is not an emergency.

NHS 111 is due to be rolled out in Hampshire late next January.

But until then, people should call the out-of-hours GP number.

Sarah Elliott, director of nursing for the primary care trust cluster Ship, which covers the Portsmouth area, said: ‘The first thing we wanted to do was develop a service to attract local GPs to work in it.

‘At the same time the new NHS 111 service is being developed.’

The GP out-of-hours number is 01962 718697.