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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Minister angry over son's GP care
Carwyn Jones
Mr Jones called the service "unacceptable"
A Welsh assembly minister has criticised an out-of-hours health service after his two-year-old son was left waiting for treatment.

Environment minister and Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones is unhappy with the service after his son Ruairi fell ill.

He took the matter up with the local health board and the assembly government said it would urgently discuss several complaints.

Primecare said it would investigated his concerns fully.

Mr Jones issued a statement on Friday saying : "This is purely a local matter.The health board has been in touch and is taking the matter up with Primecare, for which I am grateful."

Mr Jones was told on Sunday that the local out-of-hours clinic was closed until 5pm, and he would have to wait for a doctor to telephone him with advice.

It is just not acceptable to be told there are no GPs available at all
Carwyn Jones

Primecare took over the out-of-hours cover when responsibility transferred from GPs to local health boards.

Mr Jones said he was not given any indication when the doctor would call back, and so decided to take his son to the local accident and emergency department.

"We could not get any sense out of Primecare and we were forced to take him to A&E," he said.

"No doctor could be provided, and Primecare couldn't even give me a time when they could ring back with advice.

"It is just not acceptable to be told there are no GPs available at all. That's not an out-of-hours service," he added.

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.

Facing criticism

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

Primecare has already come under fire since the changes were introduced in early October.

In one case, operators told Megan Cavanagh from Bridgend, that the nearest doctor available to treat her daughter, Amy, was in Sheffield.

There have also been allegations that an 84-year-old woman, now recovering from a heart attack, had to wait two hours for a response from Primecare.

Health Minister Jane Hutt said she had discussed the issue with Mr Jones.

"He recognises that the matter is one for the local health board to resolve and I know that he will be taking it up directly with them," she said.

Mr Jones confirmed that he had contacted the health board. "The local health board have been in touch and I'm sure we can move forward constructively," he said.

We would urge Mr Jones to contact us or his local health board with his concerns and then we can investigate them fully
Primecare spokeswoman

Plaid Cymru public services spokesman Dai Lloyd said: "As a GP, I know that an avalanche of out-of-hours calls can happen from time to time.

"GPs over the years have always managed to deal with these extremely busy times.

"It is testament to GPs and their families down the years that an excellent out-of-hours service has been maintained for patients.

"This is not an out-of-hours service. We warned the Labour government that these cases would occur. Primecare should look at the way it handles the high volume of phone calls in the south Wales area," he added.

A spokesman for Bridgend Local Health Board said a senior official had spoken to Mr Jones "about the unfortunate incident involving his son and that matter will be carefully looked at".

He said the board was working closely with Primecare "to ensure the new out-of-hours service works".

"There have been teething problems and every complaint is thoroughly investigated."

But the British Medical Association (BMA) apologised after its deputy chairman in Wales, Dr David Bailey, wrongly claimed the amount of money allocated per patient for out-of-hours care in Wales was half of that in England.

A BMA spokesman said the assembly had in fact put the equivalent amount as England, and the error arose from "the major differences in the way the two countries report their figures".

The assembly government said it gave local health boards 28m for the scheme, and if it used the same system as England, they would have had 10m less.

An assembly government statement said: "BMA Wales have acknowledged in negotiations that the sum allocated in Wales has been generous.

"This generous allocation of funding is one of the reasons why the new systems are in the main working well right across Wales.

"We are aware of the high-profile cases involving one provider which is involved in services for five of the 22 LHBs.

"The LHBs are investigating each of these cases in detail and will be discussing them as a matter of urgency with the senior management of that provider."


SEE ALSO:
Two-hour GP wait for woman, 84
20 Oct 04  |  South East Wales
Where have all the GPs gone?
10 Jul 04  |  Health
Out-of-hours GP care criticised
06 Jul 04  |  Health


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