News

Nurses must have a say in GP plans to issue ‘black alerts’

Plans by GP practices to divert patients away from overwhelmed surgeries must involve nurses, the RCN said.
Busy_GP_surgery

Plans by GP practices to divert patients away from overwhelmed surgeries must involve nurses, the RCN said.

The college was responding to a call by doctors for the British Medical Association (BMA) to construct a so-called black alert reporting system similar to that used in some hospitals.

Black alerts are issued at some hospitals when they reach capacity and usually mean patients will be sent elsewhere for emergency care.

Delegates at the BMAs annual conference in Bournemouth voted overwhelming in favour of a demand for a similar reporting system to be created for general practice.

A black alert would indicate that maximum safe capacity has been reached and delegates at the conference said the BMA should construct such a system with or without government cooperation.

Responding to the news, RCN professional lead for primary, community and integrated care Kathryn Yates

Plans by GP practices to divert patients away from overwhelmed surgeries must involve nurses, the RCN said.

Busy_GP_surgery
Picture: Alamy

The college was responding to a call by doctors for the British Medical Association (BMA) to construct a so-called ‘black alert’ reporting system similar to that used in some hospitals.

Black alerts are issued at some hospitals when they reach capacity and usually mean patients will be sent elsewhere for emergency care.

Delegates at the BMA’s annual conference in Bournemouth voted overwhelming in favour of a demand for a similar reporting system to be created for general practice.

A black alert would indicate that maximum safe capacity has been reached and delegates at the conference said the BMA should construct such a system ‘with or without government cooperation’.

Responding to the news, RCN professional lead for primary, community and integrated care Kathryn Yates said: ‘Nurses and health care staff that work in primary care are under immense pressure. They are struggling to deliver services whilst coping with increasing demand and are treating patients with more complex and acute needs.  

‘Proposals to close GP surgeries would affect general practice nurses and they would need to be involved in any plans to create a “black-alert” system.’

Overwhelming demand

In an interview with the Press Association, Richard Vautrey, who is to become acting chairman of the union’s GPs committee later this week, said: ‘What we in general practice see almost on a weekly basis is the message from hospitals “A&E is busy, please don’t send any patients”, as if we were going to send them without any clinical need.

‘But we can’t replicate this and say: “Our practice is struggling to deliver a safe service to our patients today. We’ve had overwhelming demand, can someone else help out?”

‘So it might mean directing patients to a walk-in centre or A&E, or there might be other services working within the locality.’

Dr Vautrey said practices can be overwhelmed when there is an influx in requests for care due to a seasonal flu outbreak or when there is an unforeseen workforce shortage if a GP is ill and other staff are on annual leave.

Peter Holden, a GP from Derbyshire who presented the motion, said it is ‘imperative that we develop something such as a green, amber, red, black alerting system’ to maintain safe care.

But another delegate, Helen Fidler, said: ‘It sends a strong message to people when we’re on black alert, but it doesn’t make the situation safer. Some patients will inevitably have adverse or life-threatening outcomes.’


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to primary healthcare.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs