"out of hours - Christmas"

About: Kirklees PCT / Emergency GP out of hours service

(as the patient),

This was my first experience of using 'out of hours' services, and I am left feeling a bit alarmed by the lack of professional care available during times deemed inconvenient to GP and dental practices (totalling more than half the year, if you include nights, weekends and holidays).

My case is probably not as serious as some other people's - I had a tooth extracted on the 23rd Dec., and am concerned it's now become infected, as I can't eat properly and am in pain. I used the local service (Local Care Direct), who at 9 a.m. this morning responded very efficiently - a nurse practitioner phoning me back and agreeing I should see an emergency dentist today. I subsequently got a call offering me an appointment at 7 pm at the local hospital - I was hoping to see someone more promptly, but agreed anyway, as this appointment was only available as a cancellation, so I was lucky to get it! That luck ran out about an hour later, as I was rung back by someone who had to cancel all appointments as the dentist had decided to cancel the session. I now have a further appointment for tomorrow afternoon, which I'm hoping WON'T be cancelled!

I then tried to ring the service again, to ask whether it might be possible to travel further afield (Leeds, Bradford, Greater Manchester?), so that I could see someone today. However, every time I rang the contact number I got a message telling me how extremely busy they were, and then was cut off. This happened at least 4 times before I gave up. I felt very fortunate to have made my initial call early enough to be able to speak to someone!

I note that my GP service uses the same number for out of hours, and so I would have had the same result if our family had had a medical emergency (short of that necessary for A&E services).

Am I alone in thinking this really isn't good enough? There are a wealth of opportunities available from Boxing Day onwards if we want a retail 'service', but if we want something far more important (i.e basic healthcare) our options are extremely limited. I know that this is fundamentally a 'political' issue - but it is still a worrying indication of how potentially vulnerable we are during extended 'holiday' periods, when proper medical services seem unavailable to us. It is very much a 'providers' market!

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