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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Two-hour GP wait for woman, 84
Stethoscope
There are calls for a review of the out-of-hours service
An 84-year-old woman now recovering from a heart attack had to wait two hours for a response from her GP out-of-hours service, it has been claimed.

When a doctor called and spoke to the son of the woman - who is from south Wales - the GP said he was calling from Cleveland, north east England.

The great-grandmother is being treated in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant, after a heart attack.

Out-of-hours service Primecare said it was carrying out a full investigation.

The woman, from Penygraig, Rhondda, who asked not to be named, said: "It wouldn't have happened in my day, the doctor would have been here sooner on his horse and cart."

I assume the doctor was calling from Cleveland, England, not Cleveland, Ohio, but nothing would surprise me
Tony Lockyer, son

She has had angina for years and when she complained of chest pains on Saturday night, her son Tony Lockyer rang Primecare, which provides an out-of-hours service for GPs in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

Mr Lockyer, who has said he is willing to be identified even though the family want his elderly mother to remain anonymous, claimed he had to wait 12 minutes in a call queuing system before an operator answered.

Mr Lockyer said he was told his call would be returned shortly but that he had to wait another two hours to speak to a doctor, based in north east England.

Mr Lockyer said: "I'm appalled. I assume the doctor was calling from Cleveland, England, not Cleveland, Ohio, but nothing would surprise me." Eventually, nearly three hours after his first call, he spoke to a local GP.

Review call

His mother decided she did not want to go to the local accident and emergency department on a busy Saturday night, but in the morning her condition had worsened and he took her to hospital.

Tests there found that she had suffered a heart attack some time before.

Mr Lockyer said: "I'll have to use the service again, I won't have a choice, but next time, depending on how serious the problem it is, I will have to ring 999 instead."

He said his mother was now stable in hospital although still suffering some pains.

A spokeswoman for Primecare said: "We offer our wishes for a speedy recovery.

"We are undertaking a full investigation and we can't comment further until we know the results of that."

Amy Cavanagh and daughter Megan (pic courtesy of South Wales Echo)
Three-year-old Megan Cavanagh was later diagnosed with tonsillitis

Primecare was criticised last week after operators told a mother from Bridgend, that the nearest doctor available to treat her sick child was in Sheffield.

Amy Cavanagh, mother of three-year-old Megan, feared that her daughter had meningitis and rang Primecare, which had taken over out-of-hours calls from her GP just five days earlier.

Megan was eventually treated, hours after her mother's first call, at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where she was diagnosed with tonsillitis and an ear infection.

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said: "Primecare have clearly failed to deliver the standard of out-of-hours healthcare provision that the people of Wales have come to expect and deserve."

He called for the assembly health minister to hold an immediate review of the out-of-hours service.

"Primecare must have contingencies in place to cope with high call loads," said Mr Thomas.

Recent changes to GPs' contracts have meant that responsibility for care during the evenings and weekends has been transferred from GPs to local health boards in Wales.

GPs can opt out of providing cover outside of normal hours under their new contracts.


SEE ALSO:
Out-of-hours GP care criticised
06 Jul 04  |  Health
Out-of-hours doctor cover row
05 May 04  |  South East Wales


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