Since the news was leaked over the weekend about proposed changes to out of hours GP services in Ely and Doddington, my colleague Cllr Susan van de Ven and I have been pressing for answers.
There have been errors in the reporting all round, but it now appears that Herts Urgent Care (who deliver the service) are being instructed to cease immediately their current consultation with staff on changes to the service, and that a proper plan will be put in place before further communications take place.
Some background, then. In May, the county council’s Health Committee was told: “The Out of Hospital Urgent Care (‘roundtable’) programme is due to complete its design phase in June 2019, with a view to piloting more integrated services from October 2019. In this context, funding for the LUCS [Minor Injuries Units or MIUs] pilots has been agreed for 6 months to fit in with this programme. Currently the CCG commissions A&Es; MIUs; GP Streaming in A&Es; the Ambulance Service who can ‘see & treat’, extended access for GPs, GPs to undertake minor injury treatment in their practices; GP out of hours; 111 and additional clinical support to 111. There is general agreement that with limited workforce availability this needs to be reviewed with a view to also making it clearer to patients about where to go to get advice and treatment.”
The minutes of that meeting say that members (me!) “expressed concern that the ‘roundtable’ programme pilot might result in some options being lost and people therefore may not have access to the full plethora of services. Members noted that engagement had been undertaken with Healthwatch however it was not yet the appropriate time to communicate to wider stakeholders. Further wider engagement would be undertaken over the summer once a preferred model and pilot had been agreed.”
We received no update at our meeting in July.
Then just ten days after the July Health Committee meeting, a leak of something that didn’t look like a ‘pilot’, with no ‘engagement’. This is exactly the opposite of how to build public and stakeholder trust and confidence.
When it comes to health, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are among the very worst-funded areas in the country. The total NHS system locally has to save £192 million mid-year this year. And locally as well as nationally, the recruitment and retention of health workers have reached crunch point. It’s a storm that has been brewing for a long time now.
It’s therefore particularly disappointing that at such a crucial stage, the Clinical Commissioning Group appears to have so completely lost control of its communications. Many residents of Cambridgeshire rely on these out of hours services, and deserve greater clarity about the plans for their future.