Callers to out-of-hours GP services faced waits of more than 12 hours, posing a “significant risk to patient safety”, a leaked report has revealed.
The interim report into Integrated Care 24 (IC24), which runs non-emergency 111 and out-of-hours services in Norfolk and Wisbech, found deficiencies in call handling and a shortage of GPs. During unannounced inspections following complaints, staff said they had been asked to alter their records.
IC24 said it had addressed the issues.
The organisation operates NHS 111 services in areas including Great Yarmouth and Waveney and parts of Essex, and took over the Norfolk and Wisbech contract in September 2015.
Assessors from Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG) inspected five IC24 bases in Norfolk and one in Cambridgeshire in November following staff complaints.
Their report highlighted issues including:
- An “emerging trend” of 111 callers waiting to be processed and an IT system that did not allow patients to be triaged effectively
- The call-handling system was “unclear for patients” with some “waiting in excess of 12 hours from their first contact which is clinically unsafe posing a significant risk to patient safety”
- Staff “asked to alter or not record accurately their contemporaneous notes”
- Staff said they had been unable to comply with requests, including “removing unseen patients from their screens in the morning and advised that a non-clinical member of staff had cleared the screen” of callers not dealt with
- “An element of fear” among staff over reporting concerns.
- A lack of GPs, having a “direct impact on the quality and clinical safety of the service” and on doctors themselves
- Staff concerns over “competency skills of individuals recruited to fill the GP shortfall”
- GPs unhappy at being consistently moved between bases to cover shortfalls
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