In 2016 Healthwatch Lincolnshire was made aware, due to the high number of patients contacting us, of changes as to how patients could in future access INR blood test service from their GP (ceased to offer the service in many cases) in East Lincolnshire. Patients raised the changes with us due to the serious concerns they had as to what the impact such changes would have on them as a patient. In addition, patients were very unhappy that the first they knew of this change was as they tried to access the service when they were told it had ceased, ie they had received no prior notification.
Since this time we have been made aware again through patient and stakeholder feedback that immediate closure of many other services is occurring. Examples of these include low vision service, ear wax removal, 24 hour BP, diagnostic spirometry, audiology, varicose veins and tonsillectomy. Whilst we acknowledge that not all of the above services are commissioned by the Lincolnshire CCGs, it is important to highlight the range and growing number of services that have ceased in Lincolnshire, as we are concerned that the overall long term impact is not being considered.
We are also aware that how services are commissioned is not consistent throughout the county, for instance West CCG audiology service remains at the overcrowded County Hospital site when the service for the rest of the county has been moved to a ‘high street’ provider, and this suggests possible inequalities for many service users?
How does Healthwatch Lincolnshire feel this affects patients?
- Patients are being given little or no warning of any changes as to the way in which they are able to access these services. If alternative services are made available, patients in many cases will have further to travel. Extended travel affects both the patient and their carers, especially where services are much further away from home.
- From the feedback received, Healthwatch Lincolnshire believes that the impact of cessation of non-emergency services is in some cases affecting patient’s health and overall wellbeing. For instance, one patient with hearing problems could not hear traffic noise without regular ear waxing and feared they would be harmed by stepping out into the road; other patients who require regular blood testing were concerned they would no longer be able to attend regular checks and therefore any changes to their condition would not be picked up. In these case, we believe cessation of such services will most affect vulnerable patients whose health is already concerning.