Black Wednesday? Every GP surgery in Harlow closed as A and E is busier than ever

Health / Wed 14th Nov 2018 at 06:47am

EVERY doctor’s surgery in Harlow will be closed today (Wednesday) despite the fact that the Accident and Emergency Department at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) has never been busier.

On Monday, PAH reported that the A and E had its busiest day ever, treating 385 patients in just one day.

Today, every single surgery in Harlow remains closed so that staff can go on training.

There are fears that the will put intolerable pressures on an already under pressure hospital.

Surgeries have messages on their websites and/or notes on the front doors of their surgeries.

Peter Wightman, Director of Primary Care and Localities for NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group has defended the decision. He said: “We work closely with all our health partners, including Princess Alexandra Hospital on a daily basis to ensure people across Harlow have access to the right care for them at the right time.

While this afternoon training takes place the CCG commissions a cover service which includes an out of hours triage service run as an addition to the local 111 service to ensure anyone who needs an urgent appointment gets one. If their need is not urgent they are triaged to an alternative service, such as a community pharmacist, or their own surgery for an appointment as soon as possible. All of these options avoid the need for individuals to attend A&E unless they really need to.

“The events are planned well in advance allowing practices to advertise the closure to patients and to manage their routine delivery of appointments. The cover in place, as outlined, is for those patients who cannot wait until the following day to be seen by their own practice.

“The afternoon is an invaluable opportunity for GPs, nurses and practice managers to share and learn. It also counts as part of their certified professional development. These events are never held in December or January to ensure surgeries remain open during very busy periods.

“We will be running an information campaign with our health and care partners over the coming weeks to let people know how they can get access to right care appropriate to their needs, as quickly as possible, during the busy winter period.”

YH contacted the leader of Harlow Council, cllr Mark Ingall. Cllr Mark Ingall said: “When I was alerted to this issue and the concerns it was causing Harlow residents I immediately contacted the West Essex Clinical Commissions Group (CCG) and was told that these closures are part of a routine program of training on offer to all the town’s GPs in order to give them time to reflect on their practice and acquaint themselves with the latest developments in medical provision. I was told that training is offered on Wednesday afternoons every second month with the exception of December and January and has been a routine part of GPs continuous professional development for several years.

“I asked about the advisability of continuing with the training tomorrow given the spike in attendances at Princess Alexandra Hospital earlier in the week. I was reassured by the spokesperson for the West Essex CCG that GPs always put patients’ needs first and should the exceptional demand for services at PAH yesterday indicate that demand for GP appointments would be higher than normal, Harlow’s GPs would always put patient need first and not attend the training”.

When asked by a reporter from YourHarlow whether healthcare in Harlow is fit for purpose, Cllr Ingall said, “doctors, nurses and all the staff of our GPs surgeries and our hospital are working very hard in circumstances that are less than ideal due to inadequate healthcare spending by central government. Harlow desperately needs a new hospital to meet growing demand and the government needs to urgently release funds for this and increase its overall investment in health and social care in Harlow and across the country.”

YH has also contacted Harlow MP, Robert Halfon, who has pledged to look into the circumstances.

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