GPs in a seaside town are under ‘enormous pressure’ due to understaffing at their local hospital, GP leaders have warned.
Patients faced waits of up to 13 hours to be seen at the A&E department at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
The incident, on Sunday 24 September, saw just two doctors admitting, treating or discharging 84 patients.
Kent LMC chair Dr Gaurav Gupta said via Twitter that the situation presented a ‘serious patient safety issue’ and was ‘putting GPs under enormous pressure’.
— Gaurav Gupta (@drguptagaurav) September 25, 2017
He told Pulse: ‘We are seeing that more and more acutely unwell people are coming into GP practices and seeing practices are more and more under pressure.’
The Faversham GP, who is also on the BMA’s GP Committee, added: ‘We can’t sound major alerts and shut our doors and that puts us under pressure. It is about patient safety.’
Meanwhile, Resilient GP co-founder and Kent locum GP Dr Stephanie deGiorgio said ‘amazing’ local GPs were ‘there to try to help’.
Everyone there working so hard to try to fix it. But it feels unfixable. Amazing GP/nurse/3rd sector team there to try to help. https://t.co/6bx3ZKtcOn
— Stephanie deGiorgio (@DrSdeG) September 26, 2017
A&E departments in both Margate and Ashford have seen extra demand since Kent and Canterbury hospital had to stop accepting critically ill patients due to doctor shortages.
Currently, the hospital only sees patients with minor illnesses and injuries, and the trust website said ‘spikes in numbers at certain times of the day makes it harder for us to see and treat patients quickly’ at Margate and Ashford.
Regarding the specific incident at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, a spokesperson told Pulse the department had been ‘one doctor down for part of Sunday morning’.
They added: ‘Patients attending the emergency departments are assessed soon after arriving and critically ill patients are prioritised and treated quickly.
‘However, this means that people attending with non-life threatening illnesses and injuries can wait for a long time. This is not the standard we want for any of our patients and we are working hard to improve.’
Its website suggested people with minor injuries should seek help from their GP or NHS 111 in the first instance.
The trust has recruited 10 emergency doctors who are due to start work in the next two months to help alleviate some of the pressures and cut waiting times.
The spokesperson said: ‘Ensuring patients can access the care they need in the community, seeing patients more quickly in hospital emergency departments and improving the experience for patients is the priority for the NHS in east Kent.
‘We are focusing on ensuring that the entire local NHS is caring for patients in the right place at the right time, whether that’s in a hospital bed, in a community setting or at home.’
The news comes as Labour has today called for £500m in extra funding for hospitals ahead of a looming winter crisis.
But the BMA has said the ‘winter’ crisis is now the ‘year-round norm’ and Pulse reported earlier this month on an early-season black alert which saw GPs in one area asked to refrain from referring patients to their local hospital because of a lack of beds.
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