PATIENTS seeking urgent medical attention were turned away from One Life Hartlepool because there was no doctor to treat them.
One 79-year-old pensioner was told to go to the University Hospital of North Tees in agony when reception staff told her there was no-one to see her and a replacement medic was “running late”.
There was no doctor on duty at the 24-hour Park Road site for a full four hours during the blunder, leaving town patients unable to get proper medical attention.
Today, the situation has been described as a “disgrace” the pensioner’s husband, and brings fresh questions over the state of round-the-clock healthcare in Hartlepool following the controversial decision to transfer key services to Stockton.
Health chiefs have apologised for the situation, and claim it came about after a doctor who was down to the cover a morning shift “was running late”.
The 79-year-old woman was in agony when she went to the centre – which is supposed to be for accident and emergency patients – looking for medical help with agonising pains in her arm.
But the woman and her 80-year-old husband, who live in the town, were told by receptionists that there were no doctors working so they should make their way to the accident and emergency department at The University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
The woman had turned up at the centre at 11am to seek medical attention, only to be turned away.
It emerged that the doctor who had been due to cover the morning shift from 8am had contacted the centre to say he was running late, and a locum GP drafted in from elsewhere was not able to report for duty until 12pm.
The OAP’s husband, who did not wish to be named, claimed their experience proves that the town does not have emergency care cover as promised by health chiefs who stripped the town of its accident and emergency department at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
He said: “We went along at 11am on Monday and the reception area was open, but we were told that there were no doctors present and the service was out of action.
“The receptionists said there was a nurse, but the nurse was not permitted to diagnose or prescribe.
“I think it’s terrible. It’s a disgrace.
“The point I’m trying to make is that they promised that Hartlepool would have full emergency cover available, but it’s quite simply not true.
“They closed our accident and emergency department and told us that we can go to the One Life. That’s what we did. But there’s no doctor.”
He added: “The town is very anxious about its emergency care, and rightly so.”
Thankfully, the man’s wife got an appointment with her regular GP later that day.
A spokesman for Assura Hartlepool, the company which runs the walk-in One Life service, said: “The doctor was running late that day.
“There was a problem with getting the doctor there that morning, and we arranged cover for that which started at 12pm.
“Unfortunately, the session in the morning wasn’t covered but there was a doctor available on the phone.
“A nurse would have been highly appropriate to see the lady and that should have been offered to her. It sounds as though something has gone slightly wrong with what the receptionist has said.”
A spokesperson for NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are very sorry that on this occasion the gentleman did not receive the service we would expect him to receive and for the inconvenience and distress this may have caused.
“There are a number of services offered in One Life Hartlepool, including the Walk In Centre which provides an 8am-8pm GP led service, 365 days per year.
“We encourage all patients and/or their family to contact us to discuss any concerns they have in relation to services we commission within the Hartlepool area.
“Without the full details about this case however, we are unable to comment on this specific issue. We would therefore encourage the family to contact us so that we can investigate this further.”
Independent councillor Keith Fisher, who chairs Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee which covers health scrutiny, described the events as “very worrying”.
Coun Fisher said: “This is very worrying but sadly it is not a surprise to me.
“Like others who have raised issues with the service, their story is very personal and scary and it is a great concern.
“From my point of view, it is a case of trying to raise awareness as it is very difficult to try and control something that you don’t have any control over.”