GPs across the south of England have been inundated with worried parents following the increase in cases of Strep A and scarlet fever in children.
The update comes from Wessex Local Medical Committees (WLMC), which represents GP surgeries across the south, which says in some cases requests for appointments have more than doubled.
Joint chief executive of WLMC, Dr Laura Edwards, pictured, said the surge is putting huge pressure on the NHS.
“It’s really important people check whether their children’s symptoms require urgent attention but equally use reliable resources to decide when they don’t,” she said.
“If you are worried, look on the Healthier Together website which has clear information about what to look for, and when to be worried about your child, laid out in a traffic light system.
“At the same time, we are asking other patients to be understanding if their routine appointments have been cancelled because of the increased numbers of patients seeking urgent attention coming forward.
“My thoughts go out to the loved ones of the children who have died as a result of Strep A infections, and understand parents will be worried, but death and serious illness as a result of this remains incredibly rare.”
In the vast majority of cases, Strep A causes mild infections and can sometimes lead to scarlet fever.
In a very, very small number of children it can develop into invasive Group A strep where children can become incredibly unwell after the infection spreads into the bloodstream, joints or lungs.
“Most practices have seen requests for emergency on the day assessments rise by at least 50 per cent, and in some cases practices have seen an increase from 100 calls per day to 250,” she added.
“.One practice reported to us they have seen nearly 20% of their population in the past week.
“We understand parents will be worried, but we simply do not have enough GPs to cope with that level of need.
“The vast, vast majority of children will only have mild illnesses, but if your child does meet any of the most severe symptoms listed on the Healthier Together website including breathlessness, blue lips and a rash which doesn’t disappear with pressure, then do not wait for your GP – go to A&E.
“With so many requests for appointments, our GPs are being challenged to find the very sick children amongst the ones who do not need urgent care.”
Dr Edwards said the knock-on effect of the increased requests for medical attention is that some people may find pre-arranged appointments with their GPs are cancelled, because surgeries do not have the capacity.
“Our teams cannot continue to operate at these levels,” she said.
“We need to make sure our doctors and clinical staff have sharp minds and aren’t physically and mentally exhausted. We need them to be safe for you to be safe.”