GPs not best placed in A&E, says RCGP

PROPOSALS to place GPs in emergency departments to treat patients with minor illnesses could actually increase pressure on A&E services.

Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the best place for GPs was in their surgeries “caring for their patients close to their homes in their own communities.”

She said GPs were already working “flat out” to prevent thousands of inappropriate hospital admissions every day and that placing GPs in A&E could be counter-productive.

“There is the risk that any expansion of programmes using GPs at the front end of hospitals might have the opposite effect to what is intended and encourage patients to use emergency departments as a first port of call for minor illnesses,” she said.

Her comments come in response to a survey of more than 500 GPs and hospital doctors carried out by healthcare intelligence firm Wilmington Healthcare for the Press Association.

It found that 61 per cent of respondents believed placing GP surgeries in emergency departments was necessary to relieve pressure on services by treating patients who present at A&E inappropriately.

More than a quarter of respondents (27 per cent) thought that up to a third of people go to A&E when they should be seen by a GP or nurse. In addition, 13 per cent thought that more than half of patients should be redirected to GP services on arrival at A&E.

Most doctors (75 per cent) believed patients went to A&E because they didn’t want to wait for a GP appointment, a similar number said patients misunderstood the purpose of A&E, and 62 per cent said patients thought they would be seen by a specialist.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said the answer to the problem was greater investment in general practice and an increased GP workforce.