GPs in London have been asked to provide clinical cover for ambulance staff during strike action due to take place next week.
A letter from NHS England has asked that clinical staff be released to support the London Ambulance Service during the Unison strike on 21 December.
GP Online has reported that similar requests are understood to have been sent elsewhere in the country.
In the ‘urgent request’ seen by Pulse and sent to GP practices, PCN leads and GP Federations, GPs as well as advanced paramedics or others with urgent care experience are being asked to cover two shifts on the day of strikes.
It states: ‘I am writing to request clinical staff are released from ICBs to support the London Ambulance Service on the Unison strike day of 21st December 2022.
‘This is an urgent request due to the level of expected strike action by Unison staff. LAS have requested mutual aid on the 21st of December between the hours of 12pm – 12am in order to be able to minimise risk to patient safety on the day of the strike.’
The letter continues: ‘LAS are keen to have experienced medics and nurses, who have current urgent and emergency clinical exposure, have knowledge of how to navigate the system and can operate as a senior clinical decision maker.
‘Medical Practitioners would ideally be from General Practice and Emergency Medicine. Advanced Paramedics and Advanced Care Practitioners with urgent care or IUC CAS experience are also required.
‘A knowledge of ambulance services is preferred as it removes the need to learn very quickly the significant differences in ambulance services and LAS control rooms.’
Anyone redeployed to help work on ambulances during the strikes would receive half a day of training, the letter said.
And clinicians working in the operations centre of clinical hub would be briefed before starting their shift.
The letter included a link for doctors and nurses willing to provide cover to sign up.
GPs have previously expressed support for upcoming industrial action, with nurses due to walk out on the 15 and 20 December.
Last week Pulse reported that LMC leaders have voted in favour of the BMA balloting GP members on industrial or collective action if no ‘meaningful’ contract changes are agreed in 2023/24 or 2024 onwards.
Dr David Mummery, a GP in West London and co-vice chair of Hammersmith and Fulham LMC, said: ‘GP practices are already completely inundated with clinical demand with the current Strep A concerns amongst others, are getting huge numbers e-consultations, and are struggling to meet the demands of their practice populations.
‘So the idea of “releasing staff” in an already crisis situation regarding clinical demand in primary care may be a bit far-fetched.’