West Yorkshire GPs told to 'step down' routine care to ease 'extreme' pressure on hospitals

doctor with stethoscope
The whole of the health system is facing 'extremely high levels of demand' the letter said. Credit: PA

GPs in West Yorkshire have been told to "step down" routine activity to prioritise urgent cases because of "extreme" pressure on hospitals.

In a letter to GPs the NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board also called on doctors to see all patients face-to-face before sending them to hospital.

The letter said: "The whole health and care system is currently experiencing extremely high levels of demand, increase respiratory illness and increased staff sickness."

It added that the high number of people attending accident and emergency departments had resulted in "overcrowding, long waits to be seen and delays for people requiring admission".

"All wards have extra patients being cared for on trolleys and/or in corridor areas," it said.

All elective care, apart from the most urgent cases, is being rescheduled.

The board, which oversees NHS care in West Yorkshire, said it was asking GPs to "prioritise same day needs" and to "step down non-urgent activity to facilitate this".

It said doctors should "ensure all people are 'seen before sending' to hospital where clinically appropriate".

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP and clinical director for Leeds, said: "Our hospital colleagues, those working in care homes, those working in community services, those working day and night are all experiencing similar workload pressures.

"We've never experienced pressures like this and so it's understandable why many are feeling it's difficult to maintain services."

But some GPs on social media responded to the letter with exasperation.

James Gooding said: "What do they think we are doing? We’re already doing that you can’t just magic up clinicians to see all of the extra patients."

Debs White tweeted: "I find this [West] Yorks letter pretty offensive to GPs. We don’t refer patients to [hospital] for fun; I am having discussions about risks of going to [hospital] vs risks of treat at home that I would not have imagined even a year ago. Seeing before sending would be negligent with some symptoms."

Alice Chapman added: "What do they think GPs do? We only ever admit someone if we can’t safely meet their needs at home."

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