Unnecessary hospital visits could increase if GPs are placed in accident and emergency (A&E) departments to provide initial assessments, a medical trade union body is warning.
According to the British Medical Association (BMA), the Chancellor’s plans to place more GPs in hospitals – costing an extra £100 million – will increase attendance at A&E, rather than reduce numbers.
Struggling to cope
Philip Hammond’s proposals come in response to a crisis that has seen A&E departments struggle to cope with patient numbers over the winter period.
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA, said: “Having GPs in A&E won’t reduce admissions – if anything this could have the effect of attracting more patients to hospitals.
“The Government also needs to explain how it will fund and recruit GPs to work on site at hospitals when there already aren’t enough to meet the needs of the public.”
Dr Porter says the Government has already failed in its promise to recruit 5,000 GPs to work in practices, with many unable to fill permanent vacancies.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims a third of patients are inappropriately attending A&E.
However, a report from the King’s Fund claims the increase in numbers is due to a rise in seriously ill patients needing hospital care.
A survey of 80 NHS finance directors conducted by the English health charity shows 80% attribute pressure on A&E departments to increased numbers of patients with severe illnesses and complex health needs.
Comparatively, only 27% say poor access to GPs is the reason for added pressure on emergency units.
Valid reasons for A&E attendance
Official figures from NHS Digital show just 20% of people who attend A&E are admitted to hospital, while 37% are discharged with no follow-up needed and 20% are discharged to their GP.
But Chris Moulton, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, says there could be valid reasons for the number of patients who do not require follow-up care.
He said: “An example is a child who has been taken to A&E with a big lump on their head after falling over.
“We might check them over and say we think they’re OK and they are discharged, but that is still a good and valid use of an emergency department’s time.”
Date Published: March 20, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown