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Telephone surgical support service for GPs being established to ease pressure on hospitals

The RCSI, the HSE National Clinical Programme for Surgery and the ICGP are working in partnership to develop a telephone support service where GPs can seek timely advise from a surgeon advisory panel, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.

The aim of the new service is to minimise referrals to hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A GP who has a query on the presentation of their patient and wishes to seek advice from a surgeon, will be able to ring the service and a member of the surgeon advisory panel will talk to the GP.

“This will assist the GP make a decision whether the patient should attend hospital or not. GPs can of course continue to discuss cases with surgical colleagues in which ever manner their find most useful; this service provides an additional option,” a spokesperson for the RCSI told MI.

 The surgeon advisory panel will be made up of both recently retired and practising surgeons.

The RCSI is working with the ICGP on the operational details of the service with the intention of it being available as soon as possible, the spokesperson said.

Retired surgeon and past RCSI President Prof Frank Keane told this newspaper: “Mostly GPs want triage; they want an opinion and they want an x-ray probably to report that opinion. Clearly, a CT scan would be helpful in many situations.”

It is understood that work is being undertaken to identify facilities where GPs would have access to CT scanning.

“This will involve working with the HSE, the Department of Health and the private hospitals, possibly, as well as private providers of radiology,” according to Prof Keane.

“The other thing that is being worked on is trying to separate out hospitals dealing with respiratory problems, and hospitals where you can get other things done. Because clearly people with urgent or emergency problems, unrelated to Covid-19, would want to be dealt with in places where they are not surrounded by Covid-19 patients.”

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