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Out-of-hours 'failure'

16th July 2007

The former chief of an out-of-hours service has said the service was responsible for serious failures in patient care.

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Dr Peter Entwistle told BBC Five Live about a series of problems which happened in the Merseyside area. These problems followed call handling being transferred from NHS Direct to Urgent Care 24 (UC24) - as part of a cost-saving exercise - in October 2006.

Dr Entwistle said that during his time as the director of the Southport and Formby out-of-hours service (SPOOC), which relied on UC24 for call-handling and patient information, he noticed serious issues. He was so concerned by the problems that he resigned from SPOOC at the end of 2006.

Problems included patients being "lost in the system" and call handlers giving urgent priority to the wrong calls. Over 60% of calls in the first two weeks of December were given a status of "urgent." Of these calls, Dr Entwistle said only 10% were actually urgent cases.

He said: "The danger with that is that the genuine emergencies, it would be easy to miss them."

Dr Simon Abrams, the medical director of UC24, said that a review had taken care of the issues. He said: "We made sure that the systems were put into place to resolve those problems and we are now performing at a very high level."

The introduction of out-of-hours care has been sharply criticised by the Commons Public Accounts Committee. The Committee said the system cost "20% more than it was supposed to."

 


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