Posted: Fri 9th Oct 2020

GP calls North Wales health board’s new phone system ‘a complete shambles’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Oct 9th, 2020

A GP called a health board’s new telephony system a “shambles” that could “potentially endanger lives” because it’s made it harder to speak to specialists on the phone.

Doctors have said Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s new network constantly cuts them off, forcing them to spend up to half an hour trying to interact with staff at hospitals.

In some cases GPs have given up and sent patients straight to emergency departments because they couldn’t get through to wards by phone to have them admitted.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has been made aware of several GP practises in different areas of the region experiencing the same problems for weeks on end at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

The board said it has been installing the new system  across its estate since 2016 and was “aware of one call not being transferred”.

It said it had now created “a priority queue” on switchboards to “deal with GP requests”.

The problems connecting to specialities, to get urgent advice for patients, have been so bad in some cases doctors have sent people directly to emergency departments, said a practising GP.

The family doctor, who asked not to be identified, said: “My colleagues and I have spent up to half an hour on the phone, on several occasions, being cut off and having to try again and again to get through.

“It’s wasting a great deal of our time and it’s a major cause of stress and frustration.

“We’ve had to send patients to the emergency department purely because we couldn’t get through to the staff who could accept the sick patient directly onto the wards.

“The delays caused by a faulty phone system could potentially endanger patients’ lives and it certainly creates unnecessary work, for us and the emergency departments.

“GP surgeries need to be able to speak to hospital staff to be able to provide safe care, and at the moment it’s a complete shambles.

“Telephone communication between primary and secondary care is pretty basic, let’s face it.”

BCUHB’s chief information officer Dylan Williams revealed the organisation has been replacing its 16,000 telephones with a new system since 2016.

He said: “The new system is built to industry standards by a global manufacturer, and is compatible with all other telephony systems in common use.

“Although the BCUHB telephone system is being securely maintained and managed in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations, from time to time due to technical complexities some operational problems are encountered and they are addressed as quickly as possible.

“We are aware of one example of a call not being transferred from our switchboard correctly.

“As a result, we have created a priority queue on our switchboard to deal with GP requests.

“In addition, we are working closely with our suppliers as a matter of priority to remedy this rare problem and expect a resolution in the coming weeks.”

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter

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