Ambulance crews are being stopped from taking patients to Chorley’s privatised Urgent Care Centre – because the company in charge cannot meet the required level of care.
Go To Doc Healthcare took over urgent care services across Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston on November 23, but it does not have North West Ambulance Service Kitemark status, the Evening Post can reveal.
Paramedics say not being able to take patients to Chorley’s Urgent Care Centre causes a “significant issue” and increases pressure on Royal Preston Hospital’s A&E unit.
Chorley Hospital only has A&E services between 8am and 8pm. During this time, 999 crews can drop off patients – but they cannot between 8pm and 8am, when the Urgent care Centre operate.
Ambulances must instead divert to Preston.
The Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which was responsible for appointing GTD, says this was not an issue when the procurement process began in November 2015, as Chorley then had a 24-hour A&E service.
Chorley’s A&E closed in April last year becasue of a shortage of doctors. It reopened in January, but only for 12 hours a day.
Neil Cosgrove, branch secretary of Unite, the union and working NWAS paramedic, said: “It’s causing a significant issue. Crews are travelling further, there’s more pressure on Preston and patient care is affected. To us it’s back to square one.”
To meet the NWAS kitemark, a care centre must meet certain criteria to make sure the level of care offered is appropriate for patients. They must be medically-led, have X-ray facilities and have access to investigation equipment.
It has not been made clear where GTD is falling short.
A spokesman for the CCG said: “Gtd healthcare is working with NWAS to obtain this Kitemark, allowing patients requiring urgent care to be conveyed by ambulance to be seen at Chorley Hospital in addition to those already attending by their own means.
“In addition, gtd healthcare and NWAS are delivering a Pathways Alternative to Transport Service. This service allows NWAS direct contact with gtd healthcare when they feel a patient does not require urgent care and transport to hospital. At this point a home visit can be arranged with an appropriate clinician if required.
“Please note that patients can self-present 24/7 for urgent care centre conditions, and between the hours of 8am and 8pm for the emergency department. The priority continues to be the delivery of services that are clinically safe and of the highest quality, to ensure patients the best quality experience.”
GTD declined to comment.
NWAS said it was working closely with Chorley and South Ribble Hospital and expects the kitemark accreditation will be finalised “in the very near future”.
A spokesman said: “Once the Kitemarking is in place, our ambulance crews will be able to use Chorley’s Urgent Care Centre if they decide it is the most appropriate place to take a patient following their assessment.”
Mr Cosgrove said the situation has been made worst by the CCG’s decision to remove two extra ambulances with paramedics, run by private firm Jigsaw. This was a planned removal of a service put in place as an interim measure during the temporary closure of Chorley A&E.
Mr Cosgrove said: It doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s taken quite a lot of pressure off our crews. This will have a big impact, we’ll have ambulances stuck in queues at hospitals.”