GP calls for ‘black alert’ system to protect patients

Dr Peter Holden, of the Imperial Road Group surgery.
Dr Peter Holden, of the Imperial Road Group surgery.

A Matlock GP is leading urgent efforts to create a ‘black alert’ warning system which would highlight growing risks to patient care in the NHS.

Dr Peter Holden, of the Imperial Road Group surgery, tabled the motion to unanimous support at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) national conference last month.

The idea mirrors systems used in hospitals so that clinicians can alert authorities when surgeries are running over maximum safe capacity.

While some claim that it may lead to surgeries closing the doors at critical points, Peter insists this is not the case.

He said: “This is about patient safety. Hospitals have green, amber, red and black alerts, but GPs are just expected to cope.

“Equally, the majority of complaints in the NHS are about system failure, but with GPs it’s very personal - the risk falls on the individual doctor.”

He added: “We want a system so people realise the pressures we’re under and when things go from tough to dangerous.

“In Belgium, they see 40 patient contacts a day as overload. We start at that on a good day. If you’re punch-drunk from making too many decisions, you’ll miss something.”

While Peter says Matlock is relatively well resourced, the BMA will look to implement the alert system by Christmas.

It is likely to meet with government resistance, as Peter says it will reveal the strain services are now under, with some working 15-hour days.

Nationally,he expects problems to mount as young doctors avoid general practice due to workload, older ones leave due to business costs, and demand keeps increasing.

He said: “The government wants us here 8am to 8pm, seven days a week without enough GPs. It is typical of them not joining things up.”