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Lack of Bedford GP appointments driving people to A&E

And once there patients are given ‘very little information’ by staff about how long they will have to wait for treatment.

Helen Terry, Healthwatch Bedford borough’s chief executive, told the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (December 5) that all patients are triaged when they get to the hospital.

Bedford Hospital south wing accident and emergency.

“But they are then given very little information on the basis of that as to which category they’ve been triaged to, which will obviously impact on waiting times,” she said.

“Those that are the more urgent in terms of triage would not expect to have to wait the length of time that maybe somebody who has a much lower level of need would expect to wait.

“It’s difficult to see how to reduce those waiting times because there is a need there, but for a lot of people actually understanding how long they are likely to wait [could help].

“Actually telling them, you haven’t been triaged as an emergency so it’s going to be quite a long time before we are able to see you, and maybe having a discussion with them about some of the alternatives available to them,” she said.

Committee chair, councillor Wendy Rider (LibDems, Brickhill) said: “People are going to A&E now because they can’t see the doctor.

“You just cannot get a doctor, three weeks just to get a phone call is ridiculous. This is going to drive people down to A&E that don’t need to go to A&E.

“I do feel desperately sorry for staff, anybody working in hospitals, it doesn’t matter what their position is they must be exhausted,” she said.

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Councillor Kay Burley (Labour, Kempston Central & East) said:”You can go online and look up on Google [when] you’ve got a sore throat or something and it can tell you all types of horrible things so you immediately want to speak to your GP to check it out.

“Then you can’t get to the GP for all sorts of quite legitimate reasons. And in the end you end up going to A&E, which is not a bad thing. It’s just that the system is not supporting those actions by residents.

“I don’t know what the answer is, and it seems like nobody knows what the answer is, let alone the current government.

“And I think you probably could have produced this report for almost anywhere in the country, I’m quite sure that it’s not worse here,” she said to Healthwatch.

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are developing an action plan based on this report, to implement a number of initiatives to improve the services we provide to our patients.

“Our emergency departments have seen unprecedented demand this year, with the highest attendances on record. Working closely with our partners in the NHS and social care, we aim to see patients as soon as we can, based on the most urgent clinical need.

“This means that patients who require less urgent treatment will wait longer, and we always try to give them a realistic timeframe as to when they will be seen.”

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