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‘It has been and remains a very difficult period for so many on Arran,’ Dr Greg Hamill
GPs on Arran have pledged they will not rely on a new central call handling centre which has been expanded to help doctors surgeries throughout NHS Ayrshire & Arran.
Known as the Ayrshire Urgent Care Service, the central call handling service is said to be in response to a ‘significant increase’ in demand and to allow ‘GP practices to focus on caring for those patients most in need’.
Health officials this week confirmed that the Arran Medical Group was included in the new service which operates out of the Lister Centre at University Hospital Crosshouse.
However, Dr Greg Hamill of the Arran Medical Group insisted: ‘It has not been necessary to use central call handling for the GP practice on Arran and it would only be in an extreme staffing crisis that this assistance would be required. In these uncertain times it is difficult to state that it would not never be needed here but at present it appears highly unlikely.’
Positive Covid cases on Arran remain relatively low, with the latest figures showing seven cases, however there is going to be further pressure on the health service with the roll-out of booster jabs for the over 50s and vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds.
That is in addition to the regular work of the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership on Arran which goes on.
Dr Hamill said: ‘Like many areas of the country health and social care services on Arran are under considerable strain. Demand in the GP practice is higher than pre-pandemic levels but access remains very good in comparison to other areas. This has been possible through changes to how care is delivered in the practice and includes greater use of telephone consultations and triage to help people get an appointment with the best healthcare professional for them.
‘As has been the case throughout the pandemic, GPs and nursing staff see many patients face to face daily – in the GP practice, at home and at Arran War Memorial Hospital. New services such as the introduction of online consultations, the direct availability of GP practice based physiotherapy and mental health worker appointments have worked really well.
‘It has been and remains a very difficult period for so many on Arran. Many people continue to deal with serious illness and life changing diagnoses. We have said goodbye to many good friends this year. Like so many of us, health and social care staff on Arran are weary, but daily I witness their dedication and commitment and the difference this makes. Thank you to all of them.
‘I know many businesses and people on the island have been on the sharp end of frustrations and anger these last few months, behaviour that cannot be accepted toward those only trying to do their job. While that has also happened to our health and care teams it is only ever a tiny minority who behave in this way. The support for health and social care services on Arran has been truly incredible and it is this that has kept our services going. Thank you once again.’
In a statement the director of East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Craig McArthur, said: ‘Given the significant demand, the Ayrshire Urgent Care Service is working in partnership with GP practices to help patients get the right care in the right place at the right time. During high periods of demand, patients phoning their GP practice may now have their call redirected to a central call handling service at the Ayrshire Urgent Care Service for advice and support. This will allow GP practices to focus on caring for those patients most in need. Patients should be assured that if they require the assistance of their own GP practice this will be arranged.’
Case study: Patient pushed from ‘pillar to post’
An Arran patient who recently needed to make use of the centralised NHS 111 service, told the Banner that he had been passed from ‘pillar to post’ when urgently needing to see a medical practitioner recently on a Sunday morning. After speaking to more than six people over a four-hour period he was told to ‘pop over’ to his closest pharmacy at Largs to collect an emergency prescription as a stop-measure. After explaining that he was miles away from Largs and unable to quickly ‘pop over’ as requested, he was told that someone else would give him a call.
After three more phone calls and three explanations as to why he could not attend Ayrshire Central Hospital, Crosshouse Hospital or any other mainland location at short notice, he eventually presented himself to Lamlash War Memorial Hospital where he was immediately seen and received the medication he required.
The patient, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I tried to do the right thing by calling 111 and going through the correct procedure but the truth is all of the people that I spoke to, including medical professionals, were not familiar with the out-of-hours services on Arran, or even if there were any pharmacies that could dispense emergency medicine, and I got caught up in a cycle of being passed from person to person.
‘Unfortunately our island location added extra layers of confusion, and in the end, after four hours of delay and unnecessary pain, I was told to just go to Lamlash A&E which I could of done earlier in the morning. Not only was this a waste of everyone’s valuable time and resources but it also showed that the one size fits all approach does not necessarily work for island localities.’
- See letters page