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GPs told to call ambulance service only when 'clinically necessary'

GPs in Kent have been warned to use the local ambulance service only when ‘clinically appropriate’, due to high demand for the service.

NHS Medway CCG chair Dr Peter Green sent a letter to GPs, seen by Pulse, warning of ‘potential delays in the provision of the [ambulance] service’, especially for less urgent cases.

He reminded GPs to only refer patients to the local foundation trust if ‘clinically appropriate’, and to use ‘alternative pathways where possible’.

Local GPs said that the warning was ‘worrying’, as we are in a period of relatively low demand compared with a potential winter flu outbreak.

The letter sent by Dr Green said: ‘I would like to advise you that SECAmb [South East Coast Ambulance Service] are currently experiencing significantly high levels of demand resulting in potential delays in responding to emergency and non-emergency calls.

‘I know that you will only refer patients to MFT via ambulance if it is clinically necessary but I wish to advise you that there may be delays in the provision of this service, especially the less urgent conveyances.’

A spokesperson for NHS Medway CCG said the letter was ‘entirely normal’ during spikes in demand for the service, such as over the late Bank Holiday in August.

But Dr Julian Spinks, chair of Kent LMC, told Pulse that it was the first letter of its kind he has seen.

He said: ‘This is the first time that I have ever seen a letter from the CCG about ambulances.

‘What I find worrying is that it was still officially summer when we received the letter but what happens when we get into winter and it gets busy? It’s a little scary to think what might happen if we have a flu outbreak say. Will everything fall over?

‘I feel that GPs are almost being encouraged to take extreme risks with patients and it is not good.’

He said that if the patient can be transported independently, for example with relatives, than he always suggests this as the fastest option but if a patient really needs an ambulance they should be able to get one.

A spokesperson for the SECAmb said: ‘SECAmb and the NHS as a whole continues to be extremely busy. We are continue to face higher demand than we would usually expect at this time of year meaning it is taking us longer than we would like to attend some calls.

‘This letter is part of regular conversations across our whole region, driven not only by the demand facing our service, but also demand on hospitals. We are working closely with our colleagues across the NHS to manage this demand.’

‘Everything is back to normal now,’ the spokesperson added.

Readers' comments (16)

  • It is not a GPs problem if the system cant cope anymore the sooner it collapses the better as far as Im concerned.

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  • Let's be honest the system has collapsed. A bit like BBC news everything always gets reported as being 'at breaking point' ......but it's worse than that

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  • Only call an ambalance if 'clinically nesessary'...you're joshing me right?? What other reason would you be calling an ambulance for??

    ...we remind GPs to only send people to hospital if they are ill.

    Thanks for that one

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  • It's going to be an interesting winter...

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  • Dear GP Partner on 6.03 pm yesterday . You are spot on. If NHS cannot cope its not my problem. Funding services is government's job. Our job is to provide good,efficient clinical service at reasonable price.
    Don't blame GP for things beyond their control.

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  • GP's should be aware of the GMC rules to put the patient first and this involves good clinical advice.

    If that means an ambulance call so be it.

    I wouldn't expect 'Sir terence' to speak up on this one though, he's not been given permission yet!

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  • Tell the patient to call 999 instead and no problems - you don't have to justify any calls to 999. Problem solved

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  • GPs are definitely NOT the problem here! Since our local GP OOH service was switched from a GP-led service to a call centre "pathways" based 111 service, the number of "ambulance dispositions" has rocketed. The powers that be have the total arrogance to believe that medicine can be reduced to a simple algorithm. Add in modern day litigation culture and rocketing indemnity fees and it surely comes as no surprise that ambulance services are struggling to cope. The service is being run by short sighted idiots and as per usual GPs on the ground seem to be an easy target for blame.

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  • and is the grass green?
    obvious
    ..but this is a symptom of an English nhs under desperate pressure due to deliberate underfunding and deliberate simultaneous waste on pfi/privatisations/the internal market by a misgovernment that can.. on the evidence of steadily worsening performance of the English nhs;nothing to do with politics(I have voted all ways in the past)..on the facts ..be only described as criminally incompetent
    mrs may..get a grip on this national crisis..first step--dismiss hunt and stevens and get competent people to replace them

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  • Stop doing it for a laugh you lunatics!

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