Referral directive prompts GP fury
21 January 2013
Family doctors have been left furious after they were asked not to send patients to emergency departments at two hospitals unless it was absolutely necessary to do so.
BMA Northern Ireland said GPs had been working extremely hard over the past few weeks to minimise the strain on secondary care.
Despite this, they received an email from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust chief executive informing them of ‘increased pressures’ at the Causeway and Antrim Area hospitals, and asking them not to refer patients to the emergency departments.
BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black described the email as ‘unhelpful’.
He said: ‘Our patients do not want to go to hospital, and we are doing everything we can to keep them out.’
NIGPC member Allen McCullough, who works at a health centre in Antrim, said he had received reports about overcrowded wards at Antrim Area Hospital.
He said: ‘I am certainly not blaming staff. It must be a nightmare for them working in those sorts of conditions.’
A Northern Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said the health service experienced additional demand every winter and there were ‘contingency measures in place to deal with this’.
The spokesperson said additional beds and staff had been put in place at Antrim Area Hospital.