GPs in one area have been asked to free up time to join hospital doctors on ward rounds and help identify patients who could be discharged.
An email sent to Nottinghamshire GPs, seen by Pulse, said the two local hospital trusts, and the East Midlands ambulance service, find themselves in ‘extremely taxing positions’.
Current pressures on health services in Nottingham are ‘extremely challenging’ and the system has been in OPEL 4, the highest alert level, for weeks, according to the email which was sent last week (13 April).
The message, from NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG, recognised that local GPs have ‘once again come forward’ and offered help in the form of additional extended access hours, urgent GP appointments and acute home visiting.
But it added: ‘A further proposal is being explored. This is that GP colleagues could, with their community service colleagues, support secondary care and the system through this difficult time by joining secondary care colleagues on their ward rounds to support the safe, early discharge of those patients who could go home.’
GPs supporting secondary care colleagues on hospital ward rounds has happened before, and both parties found it ‘very helpful to combine their thinking’, the email said.
However, many GPs need ‘rest from their existing responsibilities’ and ward rounds are not ‘work that would suit everyone’, the email acknowledged.
The CCG reassured GPs that contracts to indemnify them can be drawn up, and they would only play an ‘advisory’ role.
‘Terms/payment will be in line with those currently paid for similar shifts in the out of hours/primary care 24 services’, the letter added.
However a local GP told Pulse: ‘There is a huge crisis in general practice with overwhelming workload and a shortage of doctors. On top of that there are massive outpatient waits, delayed treatments and increasing rejection of GP referrals.’
The GP, who wished to be anonymous, said they understand hospitals are under pressure with ‘reduced inpatient beds and delayed discharges, mainly due to the collapse of the social care system’, but said ‘these issues pre-date the pandemic’.
They added: ‘So when a request comes in to support our hospital colleagues with discharges, you can imagine the negative reaction from grassroot GPs.’
Nottinghamshire LMC chief executive Michael Wright told Pulse: ‘We have a collective responsibility to care for our population, but GPs as a profession are very stretched as it is and patients are wondering why they can’t get the access they want. This may look like GPs have a lot of spare time if not understood.’
Speaking to Nottinhamshire Live, which first uncovered the story, associate director of primary care commissioning in Nottinghamshire Joe Lunn said the CCG was ‘doing all we can to help ease the pressures on NHS services’, especially over the Easter weekend.
Covid pressure, including staff sickness, already forced a number of hospitals to divert patients across England earlier this month.
In February, GPs stationed at the front door of a London A&E redirected patients to help relieve pressures on hospital departments as part of a new pilot scheme.
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.