Council calls on health chiefs to defend GP out-of-hours service
Health scrutiny commissioners have urged the City and Hackney clinical commissioning group (CCG) to consult on plans for a new NHS 111 out-of-hours service and to protect Hackney patients’ right to speak directly to a GP out of hours.
Plans for a new integrated urgent care NHS 111 service for the whole of north east London will lead to a ‘deterioration in service’, Hackney’s health scrutiny commission warned.
Hackney patients who need to see a GP when their surgery is closed are currently directed to call CHUHSE, a local service run by GPs based at Homerton Hospital.
NHS England wants a 24/7 north east London-wide NHS 111 service to handle all urgent out-of-hours calls from April 2018.
CHUHSE currently handles around 15,000 calls from local patients every year and is credited for relieving pressure on A&E services at Homerton Hospital.
NHS England has mandated City and Hackney to commission the NHS 111 service along with six other CCGs.
Cllr Ann Munn, chair of Hackney council’s health scrutiny commission, formally called on the CCG to take steps to protect patients’ rights.
In a letter to the CCG’s governing body, Cllr Munn said: ‘We have particular concerns that Hackney residents should be able to continue to call CHUHSE directly, where they can speak directly to a doctor, rather than be in the hands of 111 non-clinician call handlers.
‘We formally recommend that the right of Hackney residents to directly call and speak with the CHUHSE out-of-hours doctors be retained,’ she added.
She said the commission viewed the changes as a ‘substantial variation’ in service and that they were ‘not in the interests of the health service in Hackney’.
Failure to follow their recommendation could lead the commission to refer the matter to the Secretary of State, she added.
Fellow commissioner Cllr Ben Hayhurst warned the change could increase pressure on Homerton Hospital’s A&E department.
Not-for-profit CHUHSE took over the GP out-of-hours service from private company Harmoni in 2013 after the company was found to be putting patient safety at risk.