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Pensioner's six hour wait for doctor

PUBLISHED: 18:15 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:23 30 June 2010

A FRAIL pensioner was told she would have to wait up to six hours to speak to a GP after suffering severe breathing problems.

Great Yarmouth grandmother Irene Capon was in need of prompt medical attention when her husband Paul contacted the out of hours medical service on January 2.

A FRAIL pensioner was told she would have to wait up to six hours to speak to a GP after suffering severe breathing problems.

Great Yarmouth grandmother Irene Capon was in need of prompt medical attention when her husband Paul contacted the out of hours medical service on January 2. She suffers chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

However, a furious Mr Capon was told that a GP would not be available to discuss her condition for up to six hours.

Unable to wait any longer for treatment Mrs Capon had to be taken to the Greyfriars Centre walk in surgery in Yarmouth.

The couple, who live in Gordon Road, have since made a complaint to the Ipswich based service provider Take Care Now, which is currently being investigated.

A GP working for TCN finally phoned after 11pm, several hours after the 78-year-old grandmother of two had been treated.

Former telecommunications engineer Mr Capon said: “I explained that Irene suffered from COPD and said she was having extreme difficulty breathing, but was told it would be about six hours before we could speak to a GP.

“Someone with breathing difficulties should be treated as a priority - Irene was bringing up orange phlegm and felt very ill.

“Fortunately a neighbour told us about the walk in surgery, and they were brilliant and treated Irene within about 15 minutes.

“It would have been the early hours of morning before the doctor got here from Ipswich and the pharmacy would have been closed by then.”

Mrs Capon has suffered from COPD for more than 20 years, but had not previously used the out of hours service.

She had been unwell throughout the day, but her condition had deteriorated significantly by the time Mr Capon spoke to TCN just after 6pm.

In desperation Mr Capon was going to take his wife to the James Paget University Hospital before a neighbour advised using the walk in centre - where she was treated with a nebulizer and prescribed steroids.

Retired charity support worker Mrs Capon said: “The nurse examined me and said she could hear rattling in my lungs, if I had waited any longer to be treated I would probably have ended up in hospital.

“To keep anyone waiting for six hours is too long - it should be possible to speak to a qualified person within an hour and get a diagnosis and some sort of treatment.”

The out of hours service is operated by Take Care Now on behalf of the NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney primary care trust.

Director of nursing and quality Pam Fenner said: “We cannot discuss individual cases, but patient safety and satisfaction is of paramount importance to NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

“Our focus is on ensuring our patients receive continuity in all of their health services, including out of hours care. We have a three-year contract in place with Take Care Now until October.

“As per national guidelines on out of hours service, TCN aims to deal with all emergency calls face to face within an hour or two hours if it is urgent. If it is less urgent you may have to wait up to six hours.”

COPD patients experiencing a flare up are advised if they recognise an increase or change of colour in sputum, an increased cough, runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes, chest tightening, wheezing, swollen ankles, increased tiredness and breathlessness should increase their use of their reliever inhaler. They should see their GP or speak to their practice nurse or surgery.

If the patient is not better after one or two days treatment and getting drowsy, agitated or confused, have continued chest pains, high fever and ankle swelling they should call their doctor for an urgent consultation and if they cannot speak to their doctor or cannot breathe they should ring 999.


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