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GPs told to avoid referring patients to A&E after hospital placed on ‘black alert’

GPs in Cambridge have been warned against sending patients to A&E, after one of the country’s most renowned teaching hospitals announced that it had been placed on black alert.

Cambridge University Hospitals wrote to GPs, ambulance services and four other nearby hospitals on 10 July to warn them that Addenbrooke’s Hospital was facing ‘severe’ capacity issues.

GPs have been asked to consider whether patients they would usually send to A&E can instead be assessed through an ambulatory care service and all referrals must now first be discussed with an on-call doctor, the hospital said.

The hospital has been on black alert, which indicates the highest possible level of capacity crisis, since early July.

It had been placed on the black alert several times in recent years – for 190 days in 2012-13 alone. Though figures for 2013-14 are not yet available, it is understood that they are expected to rise.

The letter, seen by Pulse, said that the trust was experiencing ‘severe’ capacity issues across all areas. CUH’s on call director, Amanda Kahn, wrote: ‘We have planned admissions on hold. We have contingency areas open. We are no longer able to place patients from the Emergency Department. We have critical staffing levels.

She added: ‘If you do phone GP liaison to refer a patient, please be proactive to considering whether your patient can be assessed on EAU3 (ambulatory care) rather than simply sent to the Emergency Department.’


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