NHS cancer cover “postcode lottery”

Concerns are mounting overthe recent withdrawal of a dedicated team of nurses employed to attend terminally ill cancer patients.

Claims that the withdrawl of nurses attending patients through the night has turned the level of care available into a “postcode lottery” have been denied by NHS Dumfries and Galloway this week.

A Gazette reader, who didn’t want to be named, queried the extent of the replacement coverage put in place by the health board after they axed the Marie Curie Rapid Response Team, based at Newton Stewart Hospital, after a year’s trial as the pilot scheme was deemed to be “not sustainable” by the NHS, although other rapid response teams are still in place in the east of the region.

The reader, who had first hand experience of the care system available when their father was ill, said: “The community nurses finish work at 11.30 at night and return to work at 8.30 in the morning.

“Some evenings are not covered at times as the nurse finishes at 5pm. I believe there is one nurse in the Wigtown area who works through the night two nights a week.

“She has to take holidays at times.

“Also, in my experience there is not always a doctor on call overnight in Stranraer and surrounding district, requiring doctors from Dumfries to attend.

“So in light of this, if some poor soul is needing care, be it an injection for pain control or sickness, who is to give it?

“The doctor or nurse from Dumfries will be very busy and it can take two or three hours to get here. The Marie Curie Nurses are very good, but only the registered nurses can give medication.

“So once again they are at the mercy of calling out staff from Dumfries or a doctor from Stranraer when available. Seems to me it’s a postcode lottery of care when Dumfries and surrounding areas got it and those of us in the west don’t.”

A spokesperson for the NHS said: “The GP medical out of hours service is always covered overnight.

“The doctor travels from the Stranraer area to cover Machars patients. Marie Curie have registered nurses as well as health care support workers on shift so can provide medicine /pain relief. The district nurse service provides an on call service to 23:30 most evenings. If there is no cover then either the out of hours doctor will see patients or the hospital nurse can be requested to go out. Alternatively the patient can be asked to attend Newton Stewart of Galloway Community Hospitals, depending on the clinical issue. The Order of St John provides support to cover some cancer patients, so if we know we have a requirement for planned care out of hours we will arrange for this to happen, if there is a community nursing cover issue.”