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Soaring demand for GP services over festive period

By Nigel Praities

Out-of hours GP services around the country have been swamped with a spiralling number of people seeing medical care over the festive season, with some areas seeing the demand for care rise by 60%.

The figures, released by the NHS Alliance, show demand for out-of hours services grow by an average of 25% on the weekend before Christmas, with many areas recording double digit rises in workload compared with the same period last year.

Many of the calls were for flu-like illness and coincided with a Government announcement that flu levels had risen high enough to begin presciption of antivirals. The RCGP also predicted that GPs facedthe worst influenza outbreak for nearly a decade.

In the West Midlands, call volumes to OOH providers on the 20th December were 60% greater than the previous month and 26% higher than predicted for this time of year.

In the East Midlands there was a 26% increase in demand in comparison to the same weekend in the past two years and the North West had an 11% increase in call volume in December compared with last year.

Rick Stern, out-of-hours lead for the NHS Alliance and a partner in the Primary Care Foundation, said: ‘The ambulance services are under pressure, but we should not forget that those working in primary care are also having to cope with significant demand.'

Dr Mark Reynolds, chief executive and medical director of On Call Care said: ‘GPs are working harder than ever at weekends and evenings but services are coping well. It would be a great help if patients with flu-like symptoms could either stock up on their normal medication or consult their pharmacists; symptoms usually last a week.'

GP out of hours services swamped with demand over festive period

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