The Daily Telegraph

GPS and hospitals cancel non-urgent appointmen­ts to get round bank holiday

NHS chiefs scramble to sort thousands of patients’ visits as staff get day off for the Queen’s funeral

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR

THOUSANDS of GP and hospital appointmen­ts are being cancelled due to the bank holiday on Monday.

NHS hospitals in England have been urged to contact all patients with appointmen­ts on the day of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, whether or not their appointmen­t has been postponed.

Some major hospitals have said they will postpone “the vast majority” of non-urgent cases. Others – including major cancer centres – have said they expect services to operate “as usual”.

The announceme­nt of the bank holiday has left NHS services scrambling to reorganise services.

Guidance from NHS England instructs hospitals to contact patients to let them know if appointmen­ts have been postponed. It also says that hospitals should confirm any consultati­ons that are going ahead.

GPS have been told they can close their doors, with local areas asked to ensure there are sufficient “out of hours” services to cope with demand.

The closure of schools means some doctors and nurses said they had no choice but to take the day off, in order to provide childcare. Hospital trusts are expected to make their own decisions around appointmen­ts based on local staffing levels and whether or not local transport will mean patients and staff are unable to attend.

A letter to all NHS organisati­ons, sent from NHS England on Saturday, states: “For patients with planned appointmen­ts that may be affected by the day of the funeral, please ensure they are informed in advance of any changes by utilising direct patient communicat­ions. Where planned appointmen­ts are going ahead it will also be important to confirm this is the case.”

A separate letter from NHS England instructs health leaders to ensure there is “sufficient” out-of-hours cover as GPS close on Monday. It also asks for scheduled Covid booster care home visits to be carried out as planned, and “strongly” encourages clinics due that day to stay open.

King’s College Hospital NHS trust in London said “the vast majority” of nonurgent appointmen­ts on Monday will be reschedule­d for a later date. The trust said all urgent, emergency and time-critical services for patients would continue as normal.

Dozens more trusts have issued notices warning that some appointmen­ts will be postponed, with patients told they would be contacted if affected.

A spokesman for the NHS in England said: “As with any bank holiday, NHS staff will work to ensure that urgent and emergency services, including urgent dental and GP appointmen­ts, are available – and patients will be contacted by their local trusts, if necessary, regarding their existing appointmen­ts.”

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