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Out of Hours medical care in Wiltshire

May 3, 2012 8:39 AM

GP practices are responsible for the care of their patients from 08.00 - 18.30 Monday to Friday.

Outside of these hours, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) is responsible for providing a service to provide urgent treatment. This is known as the Out of Hours (OOH) service.

The PCT conducted a procurement process to find a new provider for a service across the county. The successful bidder, Wiltshire Medical Services, started work on 1 April 2010.

Wiltshire Medical Services was set up by a group of Wiltshire GPs in 2004 to provide out-of-hours care to the North, West and Kennet areas. Under the new county-wide system they employ about 120 doctors, most of whom are local GPs.

The services being provided include:

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Patients may also ring the helpline direct: 0300 111 5717

The service will be available from eight sites across the county - an increase of two on the existing level of provision. The sites are Amesbury, Savernake, Salisbury, Swindon (new), Warminster (new), Chippenham, Trowbridge and Shaftesbury.

Patients will be offered the choice of which centre they visit and all centres will be available to all patients.

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  • Urgent dental advice and treatment.

Patients with urgent dental needs, and who are not registered with a dentist, will be able to telephone the helpline for advice. At the weekends, urgent dental clinics will be held in Chippenham, Swindon, Salisbury and Westbury.

As now, this service is available on a "booked" basis via the telephone helpline.

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  • Overnight nursing service

The demand for such care overnight (ie after 10pm and before 7am) is very low. An integrated service makes best use of the doctors, nurses and emergency care practitioners whilst ensuring complete coverage in the county.

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  • Single Point of Access.

WMS will continue to provide the Single Point of Access (SPA) for health professionals to refer patients to community services. This SPA will be extended to include the south of the county.

Communication with GPs, dentists and other health professionals began at the end of February. A public communications plan will start in mid-March.

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Wiltshire Liberal Democrats had previously asked for clarification on the intentions of the Primary Care Trust on out of hours cover, following uncertainty in the run-up to the new contract and concerns that there might be a drop in the level of service.

I put in a Freedom of Information request to the PCT in early February 2011, asking if there was a change in specification of the new contract, and if there would be any difference in the way the service operates in West Wiltshire. I also asked about the way the contract was awarded as there seemed to be no information on this. In fact most of the information then became public knowledge in the six weeks between the putting of the question and the getting of the answer.

It would have been better though if the PCT had been more forthcoming about their intentions. The idea that they couldn't clarify too soon for fear of 'confusing patients' is a feeble excuse for a very late explanation of their plans.

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Here are the replies to the FoI request.

TC. Was there a competitive tendering exercise prior to issuing the new contract?

PCT. Yes, a complete tendering exercise was carried out according to European law - please find attached our advertisement, which was published in May 2009.

TC. Is there any change in specification of the service under the new contract?

PCT. Yes, until now the service has been provided by four different organisations, with separate telephone numbers. The new service will be the first time that one number will work wherever you are in Wiltshire. It will also offer two new bases - Warminster Community Hospital and the Great Western Hospital, Swindon - providing more choice and greater ease of access for patients across the county.

TC. Will there be any difference in the way the service operates in West Wiltshire?

PCT. There will be a new out-of-hours base at Warminster Community Hospital, as well as the existing one at Trowbridge Community Hospital. Please see the press release on our website and note that there are the answers to frequently asked questions at the end of it. http://www.wiltshirepct.nhs.uk/Newsroom/PressReleases/PressReleases.htm

Article published May 2011 revised May 2012.