Phoning Ely hospital? You will have to call Glasgow

PATIENTS phoning through to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely are having their calls answered by receptionists based some 360 miles away…in Glasgow.

Cost cutting measures introduced at the hospital at the start of the year saw the Ely-based switchboard staff made redundant, with the service contracted out to call centres split between Huntingdon and Glasgow in Scotland.

Confused patients phoning through to the hospital for directions and details about services on offer claim the call centre staff lack basic local knowledge and even have to consult the internet to help patients out with directions.

A hospital patient, who asked not to be named, told the Ely Standard: “I phoned on Saturday to try to get directions to the hospital and the young man I spoke to, in Glasgow, had no idea where the hospital was, and the only way he could give me directions was to use Google Maps.

“He had no idea where the departments were or parking arrangements. Surely this is not what should be happening.”

Staff for the call centres are provided to the hospital by the Anglia Support Partnership (ASP) which is based in Huntingdon and provides support services to the NHS across the East of England, including catering, payroll and IT staff.

The decision to contract the switchboard staff came just days after the hospital’s main reception was closed, following a major review carried out by Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.

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The Trust said that the staff member affected by the closure was found an alternative post within its employment and that improved signage and appointment cards were brought in to help patients find their way around the Lynn Road facility.

A spokesman for ASP confirmed to the Ely Standard that in response to a need to generate savings at the hospital, it had transferred the existing switchboard to Kingfisher House in Huntingdon and SPS Doorguard in Glasgow.

A spokesperson said: “The transfer took place on March 1 following a consultation process with the six affected staff. One of these staff was re-deployed into a new job. Unfortunately, the five other staff could not be found alternative role and were made redundant.

“To ensure service users saw no change to the service they expect, ASP shared processes, procedures and contact directories with SPS Doorguard and its Kingfisher House switchboard staff.

“These switchboard staff visited the Princess of Wales Hospital to familiarise themselves with the site layout and to gain valuable local knowledge. In the two weeks since transfer, ASP has received positive, verbal, feedback from service users who comment they are impressed with the service.”