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Independents' Day

GPs demand end to 'outrageous' delayed ambulance responses to practices

GPs have called for an end to the ‘outrageous’ practice by ambulance trusts of delaying emergency responses to practices.

They said patients’ lives were being put at risk due to the delays – and warned ambulance services were wrong to believe patients were safe just because a GP was present.

GP surgeries ‘are not an emergency service,’ they warned, stressing that ‘when we see somebody who we think is really ill, they usually are really ill’.

Speaking at the annual conference for England LMCs in London today, GP Dr Andrew Scott-Brown warned GPs were effectively being expected to provide stop-gap emergency care on behalf of under-pressure ambulance services.

‘We are not the un-costed solution to others’ blown budgets – still less the solution to our own calls for help. Stop this nonsense now,’ he urged.

Dr Sean Culloty said he had to wait three hours for an ambulance for a patient with sepsis, despite numerous calls to the control centre and having run out of oxygen to administer in the surgery.

He said he believed the call was downgraded by the ambulance trust ‘due to the mistaken presumed safety of the presence of a doctor and defibrillator’.

The patient survived, but he warned she would have died if she had gone into septic shock.

‘I appreciate there are situations where patient could be safer in a GP surgery rather than elsewhere and this could be taken into account by the ambulance dispatcher.

‘But when we see somebody who we think is really ill, they usually are really ill,’ he said.

Dr Matt Mayer, GPC lead for workload policy, later added: ‘It’s absolutely outrageous that GPs are being put in the position of having to look after incredibly unwell patients who need to urgently be in hospitals.’

A motion calling for GPC England to condemn ambulance services that downgrade calls from GP practices was passed.


Readers' comments (19)

  • I agree. If anything they should upgrade our calls as 90% chance more serious than the dross other people call about. I appreciate how hard ambulance crews work but that cant mean their difficulties are shifted to us.

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  • Charge 20 quid a call.
    Nonsense calls end
    Service improves

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  • Cobblers

    That's an easy one to resolve. When phoning for an ambulance either get the patient relative to telephone (stating no doctor present) or, if at the surgery, get the receptionist to say there are no doctors on the premises and the Defib has gone off for servicing. Knowing it is being recorded demand a blue light 8 minute response.

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  • I have experienced such difficulty when at 6 pm patient needs ambulance and we close surgery at 6.30 . They say 3 hour wait so what do I do??? Sit there is surgery for 3 more hours!!!
    Only yesterday I had patient who was sob. Chest crackles where , very low O2 sat . They said 4 hours wait for urgent cases. I also had 13 more patients waiting to see me.
    What am I suppose to do. Surgery had no practice nurse to keep eye on patient that time .
    Cobbler’s advising to lie is not in line with doctor’s reputation of being honest.

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  • Semiretired- I sympathise. With the 13 patients waiting you could ask the receptionist to announce that due to ambulance inefficiencies you are being forced to manage a critically ill patient in house. Anyone concerned their appointment can’t wait should attend ED.

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  • Northwest .doc
    How would this help??? They did nothing wrong . Why should they go.

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  • End of the line?

    Faster just to call a taxi ??

    The problem is really for those patients who are extremely vulnerable and have no one else to support them or transport them

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  • End of the line?

    If NHS England was to agree an emergency hourly rate beyond closing time
    with proof of emergency ambulance delays
    then this would resolve the issue

    Otherwise clear guidance is required from the GMC as to where the liability lies.

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  • End of the line?

    Lets not get started on the ambulance callers who then refuse to be admitted !!
    This should face a penalty charge of some sort

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  • End of the line?

    A situation where A+E ambulance/a+e agrees to pay taxi costs on arrival
    would help
    understand NHS earmarked moneys will not be spent due to a shortage of staff
    could I suggest this money be spent here
    if not already lost in previous shortfall costs

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