Ribble Valley patients are being forced to travel miles to be seen by a doctor outside normal surgery hours after the scrapping of a local out-of-hours medical service.
A “redesign” of the 111 urgent healthcare needs facility means residents in the Ribble Valley will no longer be seen by a doctor at Clitheroe Community Hospital.
Instead, they are having to travel to Blackburn, Burnley or Accrington.
The controversial move, which health bosses believe will ensure that patients have access to the appropriate help when they need it, has been slammed by local residents who claim lives could be put at risk.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans says the decision is “appalling” and has asked the health minister, Jeremy Hunt, to look into the matter as a matter of urgency.
Previously, if residents in the Ribble Valley rang 111 between 6-30pm to 8am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on bank holidays, they were most likely seen by a doctor at Clitheroe Community Hospital.
That service was scrapped at the start of the month and now patients seeking medical help once the GP surgeries are closed will have to travel to neighbouring towns.
Clitheroe resident, Shirley Wilson, who often uses the emergency facility, claims the decision will have a huge impact on senior citizens and disabled people in the Ribble Valley, especially those living in remote, rural villages.
“It’s scandalous,” she said. “Many elderly people who live in places like Slaidburn and Tosside will find it almost impossible to seek urgent medical help.
“And what about single mums with young children? And disadvantaged people who don’t have a car? It will be a big inconvenience for them.”
She added: “This is dangerous practice and could put lives at risk as some people might decide to wait until the morning to see their local GP instead of driving further afield.”
In a statement to the Clitheroe Advertiser, MP Nigel Evans, said: “Appalling – a community hospital not serving its community is appallingly bad.
“Why should ill people be forced to travel further out of their area.”
“I will raise this issue with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and call on him to intervene.”
Responding, Dr David White. Clinical Lead for Pennine Lancashire, said: “Access to the redesigned GP Out of Hours service for all patients in East Lancashire is now via Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington where there are more appointments available and direct access to telephone advice from clinicians.
“Patients should call 111 to access this service in the evenings and weekends.
“Additional GP access in the evenings and weekends will be rolled out across East Lancashire including the Ribble Valley and Pendle from October which will improve access to evening and weekend appointments for GPs services for all patients.
“For Ribble Valley and Pendle patients, the redesigned service will ensure that patients have access to the appropriate help when they need it as previously it had been a challenge for some time to staff the smaller sites and the majority of time they were not open.”