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Thursday 24th May 2018

GP out-of-hours row

20th April 2009

Criticism has been directed at a GP out-of-hours telephone line which informed a woman with meningitis that she should call back the next day.


The patient, Christine Saltmarsh from Cambridgeshire, has since been diagnosed with meningitis, is in a coma and has suffered brain damage.

Her family said she had telephoned her GP surgery on Sunday afternoon saying she had a pain in her ear and was directed to the out-of-hours service.

Ms Saltmarsh told the doctor who returned her call that she was concerned she could have the disease because she had suffered from it previously. Her family said she was told to phone back the next day.

The next morning she told her son she had a headache and she was discovered "unconscious" the following day.

Her daughter-in-law Ms Wood said: "She rang on the Sunday and was told to wait until Monday. As far as I am concerned an emergency service is for emergencies."

"If she had got the right medication she may not have been in the bad state she is in now."

In a statement Matthew Winn, managing director of Cambridgeshire Community Services, said: "We have launched a full investigation into the circumstances leading to Mrs Saltmarsh's admission to hospital and the response she received from the Out of Hours Doctor Service."

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Martin Maguire

Wednesday 22nd April 2009 @ 21:03

Dear Sir or Madam

I have now read so many similar stories about failures in GP out of hours services downgrading serious problems with tragic results.

The same situation occured to my mother a few years ago who died as a result and which has left me angry and frustrated.

I believe the basic problem is that these services are not set up to cover the demand that was previously distributed between the GP surgeries when they suddenly stopped covering out of hours periods in 2004. At the same time, patients are encouraged to go to contact the GP out of hours service in an emergency to take load away from the A&E departments.

The result is that the high demand placed on the GP out of hours services results in staff try to 'cut down volume', sometimes appearing harsh and uncaring and, I am afraid taking, unacceptable medical risks when they have no background knowledge of the patient.

Many services now refuse to make a visit 'unless the patient is terminal' which is unfair for say an elderly person who suddenly becomes seriously ill, so a diagnosis may be done on the phone possibly by a nurse who cannot see the patient and may not even speak to them.

I believe therefore that the current system of handling urgent and emergency cases out of hours has serious flaws and should be clinically audited at a national level to make it safer and to ensure that these sad cases don't keep happening.

Yours sincerely
Martin Maguire

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Article Information

Title: GP out-of-hours row
Author: Jess Laurence
Article Id: 11051
Date Added: 20th Apr 2009


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