NHS England activates Winter Pressures Protocol

Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Register to read more

NHS England has advised hospitals to defer outpatient appointments and day case surgery until the end of January in a bid to ease mounting pressure on services this winter. Cancer operations and time-critical procedures are to go ahead as planned.

The recommendation was one of several made by the National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP) after its second meeting last week. NEEP also advised that hospitals should implement consultant triage at the front door so patients are seen by a senior decision maker on arrival at the emergency department, as well as ensuring that consultants are available to give phone advice to GPs. It is also recommending a twice-daily review of all patients to facilitate discharge. To ensure that “patient safety comes first”, Clinical Commissioning Groups are advised to temporarily suspend sanctions for mixed sex accommodation breaches.”

Meanwhile, a report in the BMJ said GPs are being forced to turn away patients because they do not have the capacity to safely treat the number of people seeking care this winter.

Dean Eggitt, a GP in Doncaster and medical secretary of Doncaster Local Medical Committee, told the BMJ: “I have never worked so hard and seen so many patients in my entire life. We’re getting to the point where we’re having to turn away patients because we can’t physically fit in any more people, it’s unsafe to do so.”

Zishan Syed, a GP in Maidstone and member of Kent Local Medical Committee, said: “As a GP, I’m increasingly being asked to take on a lot of risk. I’m expected not to admit people because hospitals are too busy, but if anything goes wrong, one is expected to shoulder the blame. That can be a very stressful process for GPs.”