GP referrals blocked as NHS sees four-fold rise in hospitals on top alert

GPs continued to face blocks on routine referrals as the number of NHS hospitals declaring the highest possible level of alert more than quadrupled in the second week of 2017, official data show.

The overall proportion of hospitals declaring alerts under the NHS operational procedures escalation framework rose only slightly in the five days to 13 January compared with the previous week, according to data published on 20 January.

But the proportion of trusts that declared a level four alert - the highest possible warning - rose from six in the first week of 2017 to 27 in the second week, analysis by GPonline shows.

Declaring a level four alert indicates that a hospital is facing severe, rising pressure and that it is 'unable to deliver comprehensive care'. NHS England guidance warns of 'increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised' where hospitals are at this level.

GP leaders warned that the NHS crisis reflected a system with no spare capacity being stretched beyond its limits by winter pressure. Practices are facing extra workload from patients re-attending because of delayed hospital appointments, the BMA said.

NHS crisis

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: 'The declared pressure on hospitals is a sign of the workload pressure being experienced right across the NHS, not least in general practice.

'It's the inevitable consequence of running at full capacity for the whole of the year and having little or no spare capacity to respond to the predictable increased pressures of winter.  In addition delays in hospital routine activity leads to additional pressure on practices as patients asttend worried about the consequences of cancelled or delayed appointments.'

A total of 12 of the hospitals that declared a level four alert were in the Midlands and East NHS region, and the remaining 15 in the South of England region - the worst affected area overall.

Just one trust in the London region declared an alert - at level three, while 16 trusts in the North of England region reported level three alerts. Level three alerts indicate major, increasing pressure that is 'compromising patient flow'.

Photo: iStock

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Walk-in GP services divert more patients from A&E but may not be cost-effective

Walk-in GP services divert more patients from A&E but may not be cost-effective

Convenient GP services can significantly reduce pressure on hospital A&E departments...

Practices face increasing risk of six-figure cash penalties, accountants warn

Practices face increasing risk of six-figure cash penalties, accountants warn

GP practices are increasingly likely to trigger six-figure financial penalties under...

Wide-ranging overhaul of GP bureaucracy promised amid spiralling practice workload

Wide-ranging overhaul of GP bureaucracy promised amid spiralling practice workload

Revalidation, referral processes, coding of patient data and letters required from...

Recognising and referring domestic violence and abuse

Recognising and referring domestic violence and abuse

A social enterprise is helping to train staff in GP practices to support women affected...

GPs 'in the dark' over pension tax trap support for this year

GPs 'in the dark' over pension tax trap support for this year

GPs remain in the dark over how a stop-gap offer from NHS England to pay off pension...

Network DES will cost GPs money and threaten independent contractor status, warn LMCs

Network DES will cost GPs money and threaten independent contractor status, warn LMCs

A group of LMCs has warned it 'cannot recommend' GPs sign up to revised plans for...