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Trust declares black alert and directs patients to local GPs

A hospital trust has directed patients to local GPs following the issue of a black alert on the hospital, which GPs warn will increase pressure on general practice.

The Royal Bolton Hospital has declared a black alert following a particularly busy day yesterday (9 December) and has urged patients not to come to hospital if they have had sickness, diarrhoea or flu-like symptoms.

GP leaders have said they already experienced a ‘much busier’ day in general practice and questioned the trust’s advice for patients to seek GP extended hours appointments.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust directed patients to GP extended hours, pharmacies and NHS 111 and added to only visit A&E if necessary.

Dr Sharif Uddin, Bolton LMC chair and GP partner at Halliwell Surgery, said he had already seen patients yesterday presenting at his practice with flu-like symptoms.

He added he expects GPs in the area to be ‘absolutely’ inundated with on-the-day requests, following the black alert.

He said: ‘I was on duty yesterday at my practice and as it happened there was an LMC meeting last night and all the GPs on the table mentioned that yesterday seemed to be a much busier day than usual.

‘A lot of young people, adults, elderly, complaining over flu-like illness, so we’ve already seen an increase in demand yesterday and that has continued into today, at my practice certainly.’

Dr Uddin also said he was surprised the trust has directed patients to extended hours as the service, which is run across three hubs, offers pre-bookable appointments.

He said: ‘I’m surprised that the hospital has said to try and get access to the extended hours service because it tends to be pre-booked appointments for people that can attend evenings and weekends.

‘There are certainly some on-the-day appointments released by the extended primary care service.

‘However, practices can only book into that after 3:30 in the afternoon. So if you’ve got the practice inundated all morning for emergency appointments, it’s hard to book a patient in a 3:30 if you don’t know what the availability is.’

He added that GPs were informed of the black alert at a Bolton LMC meeting last night (9 December) by a trust representative.

Rae Wheatcroft, deputy chief operating officer at Bolton foundation trust said the Royal Bolton Hospital was particularly busy on 9 December but the situation has ‘eased’ now.

She said: ‘The situation has eased although we are still busy with high attendances at A&E.

‘There are a lot of winter bugs around at the moment, and we ask people not to come to the hospital if they have had sickness, diarrhoea or flu-like symptoms within the past 48 hours.

‘In Bolton, GPs offer extended hours appointments, your local pharmacy can offer advice and you can contact NHS 111. Please choose well and only visit A&E if necessary.’

In Cambridgeshire, an LMC recently issued a ‘black alert’ for general practice, saying financial resource cuts has put ‘unprecedented’ pressure on GPs.