A hospital has used GPs to fill in rota gaps left by senior doctors on holiday or off sick at an A&E department.
NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG sent out an urgent appeal on Friday, offering £100 per hour to fill in the shifts over the weekend at Ipswich hospital.
And although the CCG hailed the initiative as a ‘a really positive example’, GP leaders warned that calling on GPs to fill gaps in hospital staffing was not a sustainable solution in longer term.
According to the Ipswich Star, the hospital managed to fill the gaps in the rota with GPs on what was expected to be one of the busiest weekends of the year. There were 272 attendances on Saturday, above the average of 240-250.
Indemnity for the GPs was provided by the hospital.
A spokesman for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG told Pulse: ‘The emergency department at Ipswich Hospital experienced a gap in its rota due to sickness and holidays. The CCG was happy to ask GPs, on behalf of the hospital, for their support over the weekend.
‘We are one NHS and this is a really positive example of working together for the benefit of patients.’
This follows a similar scheme in Kent, when NHS Thanet CCG offered £110 per hour and covered indemnity for GPs to work shifts in A&E over the Easter weekend.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This has been something that has been tried in various places over the last couple of decades, and whilst GPs can provide some support to A&E colleagues in the short term, it is not a long-term solution.
‘Patient’s need fully trained A&E specialists and hospitals should be ensuring they have the right staffing levels and working conditions to deliver appropriate care.’
Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee told Pulse: ‘This is a further illustration of the depth of the workforce crisis affecting the entire NHS.
‘It’s no surprise that GPs have come to the rescue in a crisis but that can only be a stop gap, and, needless to say the work is probably less stressful as well as paying considerably better than general practice.’
He added that the only long-term solution to staffing issues was to improve NHS funding.
He said: ‘A long term solution to such problems, which are inevitably going to worsen, is for the Government to put the required increased recurrent investment into the NHS, particularly of course into general practice where it will ensure the greatest return.
‘Sadly there is no realistic prospect of that happening any time soon.’