GP receives 4,000 calls in one day as patients queue outside for A&E

Met Commissioner ‘worried’ about NHS strikes

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A doctor’s surgery in the Midlands has pleaded with patients to use other NHS services after receiving 4,000 calls in one day as A&E departments across the UK are also hit with soaring demands. Sutton Coldfield Group Practice, located in the West Midlands, told patients on Facebook that they have received an unprecedented number of calls this December as nurses across the UK strike over pay. Tens of thousands of nurses have walked out in the biggest strike in nursing history.

Around a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, alongside all trusts in Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales, were part of the industrial action.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said around 70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries were lost in England due to the strike. Thousands more will be affected in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Sutton Coldfield Group Practice – who have said they are at double the usual demand – wrote on their Facebook page: “Yesterday [Monday] the practice received over 4,000 phone calls into our main line. This is double our usual average demand, which is already 30% above what we have been used to taking.

“We would ask that you use other tools such as ringing 111, using the NHS Choices website or consulting with your local pharmacist for anything other than what is urgent for today. This does not affect the booking of nurse appointments.

“We would also kindly ask that you give 48 hours notice for your repeat prescription requests. We will not be able to issue these on the day. If you find you haven’t ordered your repeat on time and need an emergency supply, your usual pharmacy can help with this.

“We would also like to make you aware that we are experiencing large numbers of staff sickness – clinical and administrative. Those working are doing their utmost to facilitate all your requests as efficiently as possible. We would like to thank you for your patience and support as we continue to work hard to deliver care to those that need it most.”

General practices across the country have been inundated with calls, with patients struggling to get through to a receptionist and unable to book an appointment.

And with patients struggling to get routine appointments, this has left A&E departments struggling with increased demand. A recent picture taken at Northampton General Hospital showed patients queuing outside in freezing conditions as staff are forced to set up a marquee to check people in.

One healthcare worker told Express.co.uk: “We had a patient who deteriorated following complications from what should have been a routine operation there and collapsed back at our facility. Our nurse in charge rang them to see if they could bypass queuing outside due to how poorly she was and they were told the only way to avoid the wait was to go via ambulance which then took six hours to arrive.

“They queue there and then go in and see someone else, then queue in the main A&E and then go through to more queuing areas. Then there are rooms full of reclining chairs for people they can’t find beds for.

“It doesn’t help that people are unable to see their GPs – it’s just increasing the demand.”

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Health minister Maria Caulfield warned that 70,000 appointments could be lost as a result of strike action, adding: “Cancer surgeries are going to be closed in those 44 trusts in England. We reckon it’s about 70,000 appointments, procedures, surgeries that will be lost.”

It comes after RCN chief executive Pat Cullen accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “belligerence” after he refused to discuss the issue of pay.

Mr Barclay has said the Government is sticking to the recommendations of the independent pay review body, which said nurses should get a pay rise of around £1,400.

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise at five per cent above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

And with patients struggling to get routine appointments, this has left A&E departments struggling with increased demand. A recent picture taken at Northampton General Hospital showed patients queuing outside in freezing conditions as staff are forced to set up a marquee to check people in.

One healthcare worker told Express.co.uk: “We had a patient who deteriorated following complications from what should have been a routine operation there and collapsed back at our facility. Our nurse in charge rang them to see if they could bypass queuing outside due to how poorly she was and they were told the only way to avoid the wait was to go via ambulance which then took six hours to arrive.

“They queue there and then go in and see someone else, then queue in the main A&E and then go through to more queuing areas. Then there are rooms full of reclining chairs for people they can’t find beds for.

“It doesn’t help that people are unable to see their GPs – it’s just increasing the demand.”

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