Ever since April when the Felixstowe Minor Injuries Unit became appointment only, there have been issues with access for patients attempting it outside normal GP hours. During the week access is through your local GP surgery – and this seems to be working relatively well – although it does give an extra layer to something that was much simpler in the past. The real problem was after hours, as 111 had no knowledge of Felixstowe MIU on their system and hence referred residents to Ipswich or Colchester.
Our Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey was made aware of the situation – and she organised a public meeting to discuss the problems, although it was held at very short notice early one Saturday morning and by invitation only.
The men in grey who were representing the various authorities could not give an adequate reason why Felixstowe MIU had not been put on to the 111 system in time other than it was an ‘IT’ issue. The reasons they gave for the MIU being changed from ‘walk in’ to ‘appointment only’ was that this was a nationwide NHS initiative that followed certain criteria – and Felixstowe did not meet the criteria for it to remain a walk in service – specifically the one that insists on a doctor on the premises at all times. So there is no chance of the service returning to ‘walk in , and we have to make the best of that.
As far as getting an appointment is concerned – the main problem seems to have been this IT issue which they promised would be resolved. They also stated that in May referrals to the MIU had doubled – not a great surprise given that this was now to be the main route for A&E treatment in Felixstowe – but which seems to have caught them on the hop as well.
The original idea of our Cottage Hospital was to cater for the high number of elderly patients that reside in the area. This also seems to have come as a fresh surprise to the powers that be in so far as they are now talking of a new outreach and drop in frailty clinic. Er – wasn’t that one of the uses for the Felixstowe walk in facility? You couldn’t make it up.
Anyway – the long and the short of it is that Therese has asked us all to be vigilant and if any one has anymore problems accessing MIU through 111 they should raise the issue with the NHS – specifically I should imagine with the Suffolk GP Federation that run Felixstowe General on behalf of the NHS – although she hoped this meeting will have jivvied them along somewhat.
I will leave the last words to Dr Thérèse Coffey:
‘I’m pleased that local NHS bosses gave a commitment to fix the ‘IT issues’ that have prevented some patients from getting an appointment at the Felixstowe Minor Injuries Unit, following my public meeting . The meeting enabled patients to put their questions to NHS top brass, including the Chief Officer of the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, Ed Garratt.
When the MIU moved to an appointment-based unit back in April, I was assured that patients could still access same-day treatment by calling NHS 111 or via their GP surgeries. However, this hasn’t been consistently happening due to a problem with the IT system accessing patients records, meaning the NHS 111 service cannot send through appointments to Felixstowe. Having IT problems is unsatisfactory but they are working on it. The number of people referred to the MIU also doubled in May, higher than the NHS had predicted.
The CCG also recognise that Felixstowe has a higher than average population of elderly people, so are developing plans for a new outreach and drop-in frailty clinic to help prevent avoidable admissions to hospitals.
Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting, I encourage patients to continue to share their experiences with the NHS as that is how they will learn and improve their referral process. I welcome the commitment from the CCG to fix the issues and to continue having conversations with residents about how to improve services in Felixstowe.’