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BMA to push for ‘urgent action’ on ambulance delays to GP surgeries

GP leaders have called on governments to take ‘urgent action’ to address ambulance delays to GP surgeries, following a Pulse investigation into the issue. 

LMC members at the UK LMCs conference in Belfast overwhelmingly voted for the BMA’s GP Committee to tackle the issue, which they said were ‘detrimental to patient care’. 

GPs also asked for an evaluation of the ‘misdirection of patients from NHS 111’ and equivalent services.

It comes after the recent Pulse investigation that revealed that ambulance trusts were ‘downgrading general practice calls.’

The investigation found that 999 calls from GP surgeries took longer in every region in the UK, often taking double the average time.

Bedfordshire GP Dr Nasir Hannan, proposing the motion, referenced the Pulse article and said that general practice was becoming an unsafe to work.

He said: ‘Myocardial infarction, 90 minutes from door to balloon time. Sepsis, one hour in order to deliver sepsis six bundle. Stroke, one hour to arrange a CT scan to decide on appropriate thrombolysis strategy. Medical care is progressing, treatment times are on timed critical conditions and now the expectation. This is where the bar is now set.

‘The NHS has a history of delivering some of the best urgent care for our entire population from the point of delivery. Trusts in the future will be fined if they fail to deliver the stringent targets. Yet, if the same person presents the same, in general practice, they are left to flounder. If patients believe themselves to be ill, they can dial 111, use the NHS app, attend a pharmacy, attend an urgent care centre, their local emergency department or their general practice.

‘General practice surgeries have traditionally provided same-day access appointments, be they telephone, face-to-face, online or home visits. Critical illness can be identified in this setting and occasionally involves the ambulance service to arrange rapid transfer to a hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Pulse has recently carried out an investigation and found that this is the case and that ambulances are downgrading general practice calls.

‘The reasons for this are multifactorial. The consequence of this is that general practice is increasingly becoming an unsafe place for urgent care. The situation is unsustainable, and we must work with our friends and colleagues to change the trajectory.

He added: ‘The four governments must take urgent action against ambulance delays, this is serious.’

Dr Simon Poole, GPC Policy Lead for working at scale said: ‘With regards to part i, there is already BMA policy to encourage government to address the NHS pressures. It will be very helpful to align with that and support for our ambulance colleagues who work under extraordinary pressure.’

Motion in full

AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY BEDFORDSHIRE: That conference, with regard to the commissioning of urgent care services:

(i) calls for urgent action by governments to address the problems of ambulance delays which are detrimental to patient care

(ii) believes that GP out of hours services should remain defined as primary medical services and not be separated into a collection of sub-specialist services under the title of ‘urgent care’

(iii) calls for a full evaluation of NHS 111 and equivalent services that continues to mis-direct patients and overload already stretched NHS services.