PATIENTS who need to access overnight out of hours services in the Llandysul area will face a trek to Carmarthen in what are described as temporary changes being brought in by the local health authority,

From March 9, Hywel Dda Health Board will bring in measures aimed at providing more consistent and robust care during the overnight period (11pm – 8am, Monday to Sunday).

Patients in Llandysul and the surrounding area who dial 111 during the overnight period will be asked to attend the out of hours base at Glangwili General Hospital, Carmarthen, should they need to see a clinician.

By moving the overnight GP in Llandysul to Glangwili, health chiefs hope to be able to fill more weekend clinical shifts - when more people access the service - and provide a more consistent and robust service for patients, so that they retain the ability to be reviewed as appropriate.

A health authority statement said: “For some time our out of hours service has become increasingly fragile due to difficulties in filling GP rotas, with the position especially challenging at weekends.

“This has led to us having to move available clinicians around to try to manage the shortfalls as and when required, or – increasingly – close bases for long periods of time if no cover can be found, in the interests of patient safety.

“These temporary changes will help inform our longer-term transformation of the out of hours service, in line with our Healthier Mid and West Wales strategy, and we will be asking patients for their feedback about their experience of the temporary change to help inform our decision-making.”

Dr Richard Archer, an out of hours GP and clinical lead for the service, said: “It’s been well publicised that for some time now we have struggled to provide a robust out of hours service in all three counties due to difficulties filling the rotas.”

“Where no clinical cover has been available at all, we’ve had to temporarily close bases and redirect patients to A&E, which puts further pressure on our emergency services as it isn’t always the most appropriate place for them to go.

“By bringing about these temporary changes we hope to be able to provide more telephone consultations and more of an overnight GP presence in Llanelli and Carmarthen.

“We recognise that this does mean some patients living in Llandysul and the surrounding area will need to travel to Glangwili if they are given a face-to-face appointment after midnight, and I would like to apologise for any frustrations or inconvenience that this may cause.

“We know that we typically experience far less Out of Hours activity in Llandysul during the overnight period than elsewhere and we expect that the impact of these changes will be minimal.

“I would like to pay particular tribute and offer my sincere thanks to all of our GPs and clinicians who continue to work tirelessly to help provide the best possible service for our patients in what has been a very challenging environment.”

Andrew Carruthers, director of operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: ““It’s fair to say that this service has experienced significant pressures in recent years and we would like to thank the public for their understanding while we continue to evolve the model.

“We hope that by introducing these temporary measures we can return to providing greater resilience within the service, while at the same time looking at what we need to do going forward to provide the care our patients deserve.”