Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 17:04 UK

Row over GP out-of-hours service

Christine Saltmarsh
Christine Saltmarsh lives in Cambridgeshire

A GP out-of-hours service has been criticised over claims it told a woman, who was later found to have contracted meningitis, to ring back the next day.

Christine Saltmarsh, 73, who lives in Alconbury Western, Cambridgeshire, is now in a coma and suffered brain damage after contracting meningitis.

Her son Nicholas Wood and daughter-in-law Samantha Wood are concerned about the delay in getting treatment.

Cambridgeshire Community Services said it had started a full investigation.

Her family said Ms Saltmarsh called her GP at 1430 BST on a Sunday afternoon complaining of "earache" and was put through to the out-of-hours service.

Found unconscious

An hour later a doctor called her back.

She said she was worried she had meningitis because she had had it before but they claim she was told to call back the following day.

At 0905 BST the next morning she texted her son saying she had a headache and 24 hours later she was found unconscious.

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."

Ms Saltmarsh was taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire and put on a course of antibiotics.

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.

"Once the investigation has concluded I will meet with the family to explain the results and the actions we took on 22 March."

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