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GPs in A&E and care homes can cut unnecessary attendances, says Hunt



Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said more GPs should be working in A&E departments and care homes to relieve the pressure on emergency services. 

Talking on Radio 4’s Today programme, the health secretary said that there was a need to recognise A&E was for accidents and emergencies, with GPs based in the departments seeing the 40% of A&E patients who don’t need emergency care.

In addition to GPs in A&E, Mr Hunt said he now wants to ‘expand the number of GPs operating in care homes’.

This follows an NHS England pilot of an ‘enhanced health in care homes’ enhanced service which requires GPs to do weekly ward rounds in care homes, which GP leaders said would stretch available GPs too thinly.

The GPC has called for the NHS to incentivise teams of pharmacists, community nurses, elderly care specialists and GPs to manage care home patients as part of its Urgent Prescription for General Practice report, but told Pulse this was not part of GMS contract negotiations.

Mr Hunt told Radio 4: ‘Around 40% of the people in A&E departments don’t actually need the care of an A&E. So we need to find other ways to look after their needs – GPs in A&E, works very well in a number of places.’

‘Also I think we need to expand their number of GPs operating in care homes, because they can often stop some of the most vulnerable patients [being admitted].’

’If you’re an 80 year old patient with dementia an A&E department can be one of the most confusing and bewildering places you can go.’

He added that this was something the Government had committed to do, but said changing attitudes to A&E would require working with the public.

GPC deputy chair Dr Vautrey told Pulse they had asked NHS England to ‘enourage CCGs to commission such services’, but added: ‘This isn’t a contractual discussion but a commissioning one.

‘We highlighted the need for more investment and dedicated teams to support work in care homes in our Urgent Prescription last year and we’ve raised it with NHS England.’

Mr Hunt also confirmed plans, revealed by Pulse last week in an interview with health minister David Mowat, to give all patients in London routine GP access eight to eight, seven days a week by March 2018.

He said these moves were ‘was a concrete example’ of how the £4bn pledged to fulfil the NHS England Five-Year Forward View was being spent.

Mr Hunt added: ‘In London – from next March – everyone will be able to access a GP from eight until eight, seven days a week. That is what we need to do to reduce the pressure on hospitals.’

Over Christmas, the new chair of the RCGP Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard said plans for seven day services risked the collapse of core weekday care.