As GP shortages continue in Carmarthenshire, patients in Carmarthen may be forced to travel to Llanelli this evening to use the out-of-hours service.
Last weekend, the out-of-hours service in Prince Philip Hospital was forced to close due to the shortage, which left patients having to make the trip to Carmarthen or ring NHS Direct.
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Now, as the shortage continues, patients in Carmarthen are in the same position as gaps in the out-of-hours rota mean that there will be no cover in Glangwili Hospital on Friday evening.
Last weekend’s shortage resulted in a Llanelli resident camping outside the hospital in protest at the service being temporarily closed.
Adrian Morgans, of Cefncaeau, called the situation “totally unacceptable” as he said: “It is time the public woke up and fought to save our hospital.”
In a statement from Hywel Dda, the health board said it was finding it “increasingly difficult to staff rotas”. It stated that after a telephone-based GP assessment had been completed, and someone needed to see a GP face-to-face, patients might be asked to travel to a neighbouring county within the Hywel Dda region.
Deputy chief executive and director of operations, Joe Teape, said: “I would like to apologise for any concern or inconvenience caused due to ongoing staffing issues in the out-of-hours GP service.
“This is currently a familiar trend among other health boards across the country.
“We know that all of our staff and GPs are working really hard to provide safe services for our patients and we appreciate this.
“We are working together across the whole health board area and across different services to provide a safety net for our patients.
“The public’s health is our number one priority and although we sometimes cannot achieve everything that we want to achieve, we are doing our utmost to ensure that we can continue to provide services that are safe and robust for our local communities.”
(Image: Robert Melen)
(Image: Adrian Morgans)
The health board’s statement also mentioned that none of the rotas at its hospitals had any additional capacity to help ease the situation.
Reacting to the news, Llanelli ’s MP Nia Griffith said: “The news coming from Hywel Dda Health Board this week is extremely alarming.
“This is a completely unacceptable situation – the health board have not yet been able to staff the Friday evening shift at Glangwili Hospital.
“So even those Llanelli residents who are able to travel to Carmarthen to get urgent care may find themselves with nowhere to turn.
“In any case, no-one should be having to take a sick relative all the way to Carmarthen or Swansea .”
Ms Griffith added: “I have written to the Chief Executive of Hywel Dda demanding a meeting and an explanation for why this has been allowed to happen.
“It is vital that we keep the out-of-hours GP service open in Llanelli, so I will be pressing the health board to explain how it plans to prevent further temporary closures and ensure a long-term future for the service.”
(Image: Nia Griffith MP/Lee Waters AM)
Llanelli’s AM, Lee Waters, added: “I’ve had a detailed briefing on the efforts made over the last week and a half to fill the gap in the GP rota.
“With some of their regular GPs away and one off sick they are really struggling to find enough doctors to provide cover.
“Nobody thinks this is good enough.
“The chief executive assures me he thinks things should be back to normal by the end of the month but they are expecting some problems in the meantime.”
Mr Waters added: “This is not only a problem in our health board but right across the UK at the moment. The NHS is under enormous strain.
“The health board needs to do more to actively recruit more GPs from across the area to help out in out-of-hours.”
Hywel Dda has offered alternative advice including visiting NHS Direct, calling 111, using a community pharmacy, and visiting Prince Philip Hospital’s minor injury unit for a minor injury.