I was staggered that NHS England’s West Yorkshire area team (WY) would send this email to GPs at all, let alone at 4 o’clock on a friday afternoon, a time when most GPs will be fully booked with patients until the end of their contracted hours.
It is surely predictable that there will be times when ambulance services have increased demand, yet the head of emergency preparedness, resilience and response seems to think that the appropriate action for this is to try, with no notice, to ask a different part of the NHS to take on yet more unresourced work.
The suggestion that we might personally phone our sickest patients then or over the weekend to check they are alright and won’t bother the ambulance service would be laughable were it not illustrating a total misinderstanding within NHS England of the role, responsibillities, and workload of general practice.
A patient arriving on saturday morning to find their GP busy with booked appointments, or later to find them shut, might well conclude from the tweet that their GP should be providing such a service, and I object most strongly to NHS England stoking patient expectations without there being any realistic possibility of them being met.
Most importantly, this is a frank admission from NHS England that NHS 111 cannot be relied on to do its most basic task, which is to direct patients to the most appropriate part of the NHS to meet their needs, and that the result of patients contacting NHS 111 is unnecessary ambulance calls. To this extent at least NHS England and GPs can agree.
Dr Andrew Green is chair of the GPC prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Hedon, East Yorkshire