GPs hitch-hike and walk miles to work as practices battle snowy conditions

GPs have battled tough conditions across the UK to maintain essential patient services, with some walking miles through snow and even hitching lifts with passing 4x4 vehicles to get to work.

Snow: GP practices affected (Photo: iStock)
Snow: GP practices affected (Photo: iStock)

Practices have activated business continuity plans - in some cases those honed in the wake of the WannaCry cyber attack that affected practices across the UK last year.

GPs have closed practices early, switched to emergency-only surgeries and had staff unable to get to work providing triage from home.

Glasgow LMC medical director Dr John Ip said that in places snow was around 40cm deep, but practices across the city had remained open and continued to carry out home visits to vulnerable patients.

One GP at his practice whose car refused to start in the freezing temperatures walked to the nearest main road and hitched a lift with a passing four-wheel drive vehicle, he told GPonline.

'A kindly gentleman in a 4x4 managed to get him reasonably close to the practice and he walked the last mile and a half through the snow,' Dr Ip said.

'At my practice we essentially ran an emergency surgery only today and yesterday. Only folks that really needed to be seen and could get in. We also managed to do house calls. The main roads are reasonably passable, and if you can’t get to a front door you can park and walk the rest of the way.'

An NHS England spokesman told GPonline that it was a matter for GP practices to decide how best to respond to staff and safety problems caused by snow. Reports that practices had been ordered to remain open were not true, he said.

Former GPC UK negotiator Dr Mary Church said she had walked to work on her day off because colleagues had been unable to make it.

Head of primary care support and development at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Lorna Kelly reported primary care staff walking miles through the snow to maintain services, and said she was proud to be part of the NHS.

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