Patients in England calling for an ambulance could now be advised to see their GP in an effort to improve response times, BBC News reports.
In trials in London and across the West Midlands, nearly half of those receiving a callback for a ‘category two’ were advised to go instead to their GP, an urgent treatment clinic or a pharmacy. Last year most ambulance callouts were for category-two emergencies, the BBC reports.
Next week ambulance workers are scheduled to strike for four out of seven days:
- Monday, February 20 – Unite and GMB workers striking in the North-East, East Midlands and Wales.
- Wednesday, February 22 – GMB workers striking in the North-West.
- Thursday, February 23 – GMB workers striking in Northern Ireland.
- Friday, February 24 – GMB workers striking in Northern Ireland.
Next month Unite and GMB workers striking in the North-East, North-West, East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales will also strike on Mondays 6 and 20 March.
Last month GPs told Pulse that they had stopped trying to phone for ambulances, with some saying they had even advised patients with chest pain to take a bus to hospital. One anonymous GP even reported driving a patient to hospital themselves.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “It’s hard to disagree with any initiatives that aim to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of ambulance services and reduce the strain on hospitals, particularly in the current climate.
“GPs in primary care are already focused on gatekeeping secondary care, as well as primary and secondary prevention. Whilst diverting us from our day jobs may be a quick-fix solution, in the long run it prevents us from effectively managing conditions that, down the line, will present urgently. Today’s mild headache could be tomorrow’s stroke.
“The current industrial action is not the cause of this problem, but a chronic symptom of under-resourcing and micromanagement, without proper long-term planning and investment.”