OAP waited 15hrs for out of hours GP

PUBLISHED: 10:02 23 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:31 30 June 2010

A formal investigation has been launched into why an elderly Hemsby woman - suffering hallucinations - was kept waiting for 15 hours for an out-of-hours doctor.

A formal investigation has been launched into why an elderly Hemsby woman - suffering hallucinations - was kept waiting for 15 hours for an out-of-hours doctor.

Those looking after Reta Foster, 86, called the service on Sunday just after 8am when they went into her house and discovered her “way out of it.”

And it was only after repeated calls to the service, and frequent visits from her concerned next door neighbour, that a doctor arrived - at 11pm that night.

Margaret Williams has been caring for Mrs Foster, who lives on her own after her husband Ken died ten years ago, for a couple of years. She said: “She wasn't entirely with it on Friday, but on Saturday when we there she was really bad; she was hallucinating and saying her husband's name.

“I was really upset and I didn't think she was going to survive to be honest, so we called the service; because she is petrified of hospitals we tried to go down those lines.”

This followed a week in which the pensioner, who used to work in a ball bearing factory, was diagnosed with a water infection for which she had been given antibiotics, and it was suspected she might also have a chest infection.

Mrs Williams added: “When we called again at 10.30am we were told the doctor had to go from one end of Great Yarmouth to the other and see some others before he could drop in.”

However, after a day of waiting, Mrs Foster, who is unable to use her legs, was put to bed at around 7pm in the hope the doctor would eventually turn up.

Mrs Williams added: “I thought after that first phone call it would be a few hours, but it was far longer.”

Sharing the carers' concern was neighbour Bob Reynolds, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council, who has helped look after Mrs Foster over recent years.

Mr Reynolds, 71, explained that, after putting in calls to the service himself and repeatedly dropping in to check up on Mrs Foster, who is unable to remember events, he finally heard the doctor arrive at 11pm.

“I was sitting on my settee when I heard the car pull into her drive and saw the security light go on, but it felt like he wasn't in there for much more than ten minutes.”

“I thought she should wait for a doctor because if she had woken up in a hospital the shock could have killed her.

“But I think it's absolutely disgusting - she could have been dead by the time they got to her, and you read so much these days about how the elderly are ignored.”

Pam Fenner, Director of Nursing and Patient Safety for NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: “We are concerned to hear one of our patients is unhappy with the treatment they've received through our out-of-hours service.”

She said that the Harmoni Ltd, who run the out-of-ours service, were providing recorded tapes to determine the wait time for Mrs Foster, and that the matter was being dealt with as a formal complaint and being investigated.

“We aim to deal with all emergency calls face to face within an hour or two hours if it is urgent. If it is less urgent the patient may have to wait up to six hours.”

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