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Independents' Day

GPs told to cut routine appointments and send patients to A&E during Olympics

London GPs are being advised to treat the Olympics like a bout of ‘severe weather' and consider reducing appointments, closing surgeries or transferring patients to A&E in order to ride out the storm.

In a newsletter sent to reassure GPs, LMC leaders in an Olympic borough have advised practices that they will have to draw up detailed plans in order to be ‘Games ready' for the summer.

The plans include reducing routine appointments, offering more telephone advice, being flexible about prescriptions and ensuring that the practice is fully stocked up before the start of the Games.

They also advise practices to consider closing smaller branch surgeries, avoiding home visits and ‘lowering the threshold' for calling an ambulance in urgent situations.

They say: ‘Our advice to you is to think of the Olympics not as an extended Christmas - which you can largely plan for - but as extended severe weather, which cannot be entirely predicted).'

‘You are advised not to completely stop any service for which you are contracted, but you might reasonably reduce that service without breaching your contract.'

The advice says that PCTs are unlikely to penalise practices for not providing a full service as ‘the adverse publicity would be too damaging to them.'

In January, City and East London LMC leaders warned practices near the Olympic park in Stratford, of the ‘capacity, contingency and travel issues' that might hinder their ability to offer healthcare during the Olympics.

Local GP Dr Dermot Kenny, a member of Greenwich LMC, said the advice was designed to ensure that GPs were aware they would not be able to run a normal service.

He said: ‘You can plan as much as you like but that doesn't mean you'll be alright. You have to adapt to situations as they come, which GPs are good at already, but it's still worth pointing out.'

He said that he was disappointed by the lack of logistical support offered by the PCT: ‘If a patient needs a visit we're given no priority in transport. Practices close to the Olympic park could be paralysed, completely unable to run services as normal.'

Dr Manak Chand, a GP in Greenwich, said the advice was over-dramatic as aside from disruption caused by extra traffic, the effects on GPs would be minimal: ‘If we can get through the flu season, we can get through this.'

Dr Eleanor Scott,  medical secretary of Greenwich LMC, said: 'GPs are going to find it incredibly hard to get to work. Areas where they normally park have been blocked off, roads are going to be blocked off.'

'We asked the PCT to help us get parking permits and driving permits so that GPs could access their surgeries and get access to patients but the PCT refused. We asked for extra funding to help in this protracted emergency period. We're not getting any extra financial support, it's very worrying. We begged for help and we're being refused.'

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