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Healthwatch hears about the NHS 111 and Out of Hours Urgent Care contract


Our Board Meetings are open to the public and are an opportunity for you to hear about our work and ask questions. Our Board often invites senior health and care leaders to ask them about our concerns, or hear about new services.  

At our meeting this week, David Archer, from Herts Urgent Care (HUC), told the Board about the new Integrated Urgent Care Service that incorporates NHS 111 and the GP Out of Hours Urgent Care services. This is starting on 19th October for patients in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Oundle, Wansford and Royston. Wisbech patients are part of the Norfolk NHS 111 and Out of Hours service.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clincial Commissionig Group (CCG) ran a public consultation between 19 December 2014 and 6 March 2015 on the proposal to integrate the two services, and an additional consultation in Royston during April and May 2015. The consultation showed support for an integrated service.

David told us that the new contract will allow HUC to develop services that work more effectively for patients. He said:

  • The current out of hours' service bases will continue to be used. 
  • Call handlers will be able to directly book appointments with the out of hours doctor; this should improve care and stop people 'giving up' on the service and going to A&E.
  • People who need to see a clinician will be able to speak to or meet a clinician within a minimum of four hours, or sooner if necessary. 
  • The new service has taken into account feedback from patients and clinicians. They have made changes to include easier access for hard of hearing people, easier access for patients at the end of their lives, a pharmacist prescribing for weekends and bank holidays, and advice for patients with mental health problems.

The priority will be to make sure people have access to safe, good quality services. We know that patients need access to urgent care services, when their own GP practice is closed. Having a well functioning out of hours service will mean fewer referrals to hospital, and fewer patients needing to go to A&E when they need help.

Our Healthwatch had a seat on the Clinical Commissioning Group’s procurement Board for this service, and are currently on the mobilisation Board. We have been making sure that public and patient engagement is part of the new contract. Herts Urgent Care are currently developing a number of ways for patients to feedback their experiences, including recruiting some Patient Champions to scrutinise feedback.