Suffolk out-of-hours Harmoni GP service to be monitored

Medical staff taking blood pressure
Image caption Harmoni took over NHS out-of-hours GP services in April 2010

Suffolk's out-of-hours GP service is to be monitored for three months to see if changes in provision are effective.

Harmoni, which runs on-call services for the NHS, will close its bases in Newmarket, Aldeburgh and Wickham Market, open a new base in Saxmundham and provide three extra GPs in cars.

Dr David Lee, from Harmoni, said: "We believe making changes allows us to use our clinical staff more effectively."

The NHS monitoring period is from 1 February to 30 April.

Harmoni, which took over the out-of-hours service in Suffolk (except for the Waveney area) in April 2010, will have eight bases instead of 10 and 13 GPs in cars.

Marianne Fellowes, a Conservative Suffolk Coastal District councillor for Aldeburgh, said: "People in Aldeburgh are concerned because the fact that there was a base there meant they were reassured by that.

'Within 30 minutes'

"We have a community hospital in Aldeburgh and it seems a shame not to utilise that as a base.

"Whatever Harmoni puts in place, it's got to reassure people and that it is providing a consistent service."

Dr Lee, who is Harmoni's regional medical director, said: "The new configuration does allow us to meet the criteria that everyone can be seen within 30 minutes travel time."

Suffolk's Health Scrutiny Committee has asked for the monitoring to take place.

Anne Whybrow, chairman of the committee, said: "We've asked them to supply that data in certain ways so that we can measure it - phone calls, where they've been signposted to and home visits listed by geographical areas.

"If you're an older person, you don't like to bother your doctor and we need to know those people get a call back pretty quickly from a clinician, discuss what the problem is and are then assessed on whether they need to go to a local hub base or to hospital."

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