GPs in one area of England are being offered £110 per hour, with indemnity covered, to work shifts in the local hospital A&E department over the Easter weekend.
An email from NHS Thanet CCG, sent out yesterday afternoon and marked with ’high importance’, said East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust ’is seeking additional GP support over the Easter period, for GPs to work in A&E alongside secondary care colleagues’.
It said that cover was particularly needed between the hours of 2.00pm and 10.00pm on Easter Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but GPs have only been given just over 24 hours to confirm.
The trust said it was hoping to have a GP doing triage in the A&E department over the long weekend. A spokesperson added that this was something it commonly did.
Dr Stephanie de Giorgio, a GP in East Kent and co-founder of Resilient GP, said it was ‘a sensible idea’ but ‘a shame it is necessary’.
She added: ‘I think GPs placed in A&E in areas of high demand, like Thanet, is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it is a shame when the trusts are having to get GPs in because they can’t manage the demand because they have rota gaps and they can’t staff the department which is one of the problems [here].’
Dr de Giorgio said that they ‘are paying well’ but that there is already a Challenge Fund pilot offering routine GP appointments out of hours nearby, and the standard out-of-hours service.
‘That leaves a lot of people stretched very thinly to try to manage demand. I think what we really need… is for all of that money to go into a proper, well-run GP out-of-hours service.’
Kent LMC medical secretary Dr John Allingham told Pulse: ‘I don’t know the rationale but the A&E load nationally is peaking now instead of the usual January spike which may be due to H1N1 flu circulating, a surge in scarlet fever and the usual strain caused by closing for two days.’
Asked what NHS England’s policy for the Easter weekend was this year, a spokesperson told Pulse it would ’not be writing out this year regarding Easter’. They explained that last year’s instruction had come ‘on the back of a particularly challenging winter and there was keenness to ensure the system could cope’.
They added: ’This year the winter planning began even earlier and the system-wide response was really strong given the huge demand so we’re confident it will cope with Easter as well.’
An investigation by Pulse confirmed that out-of-hours providers had struggled in some areas last year as they were forced to compete against lucrative one-off offers when trying to fill shifts.
Pulse also revealed that in one area a GP practice was paid £650 to see just three patients on Easter Saturday.