Posted: Tue 14th Dec 2021

Concerns over North Wales 111 NHS service after patient waits ten hours for medical advice

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Dec 14th, 2021


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Concerns have been raised about the NHS 111 phone service after a politician was approached by health professionals.

The non-emergency medical advice line was launched in North Wales in June of this year.

However, concerns have been raised with a regional Senedd Member that the service is unable to cope with the demand it is experiencing.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales MS, raised the issue in the Senedd on Tuesday after highlighting cases of calls going unanswered and one patient waiting ten-hours for their call to be triaged.

He said he believed the problems were being caused partly by patients being unable to access their GP.

He said: “The sense among nursing professionals is that the service is being over-run – with patients having to wait hours for a basic response despite the best efforts of staff.

“In the past few weeks, calls have gone unanswered and one had waited 600 minutes to be triaged.

“Some of these cases need to be sent to the emergency department as a matter of urgency but, due to the backlog, they are being lost and delayed.

“It’s impossible to know how many give up waiting due to the lengthy delays.”

Mr Gruffydd also raised concerns about the lack of specialist staff within the 111 service.

He said: “There are no paediatric specialists on the 111 service in the north and therefore all cases involving children, when they finally get through, are being referred straight to the emergency department.

“Similarly, the 111 mental health hub does not have sufficient psychiatric specialism to deal with current demand. It’s little wonder our emergency services are being inundated.

“Given the very real rise in demand for mental health services during the pandemic, patients and the general public across north Wales need reassurance that this service is delivering what’s needed.

“Will the First Minister accept that the 111 service, which replaced the GP out-of-hours service, is not delivering? This is the view of very concerned health professionals with years of experience in the field.”

In response, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I did make a direct inquiry of the health board, knowing that this question would be asked of me today, and was told that concerns of that sort hadn’t been raised, either by the people responsible for the service or by people delivering it.

“The system everywhere in Wales is under huge pressure, and we’re about to ask the people we rely on to provide the 111 service, in some instances, to be part of the new booster vaccination system.

“It cannot be a surprise to anybody to find that the system is not always able to provide as timely a response to people as it would were we in calmer territory.

“I asked the health board as well whether it was receiving complaints from the public about the quality of the service, and they told me that complaints were running at less than one in every 1,000 users of the service.

“This is not for a minute to discount the important points that the member has raise and I’ll make sure that they are conveyed to the health board.

“But I think there’s probably more than one account of the way in which the service is trying to provide a quality response to the needs of people in north Wales, despite the very real demands that we are placing on the health service in the face of the global pandemic.”

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