By Alisdair Stirling
Employing GPs in A&E units is highly effective and speeds up the delivery of care, a new study reports.
Researchers found adding a GP to the staff of A&E departments had a positive impact on patient satisfaction, time management and efficiency.
Their findings back the previous government’s policy of rolling out GP-led urgent care centres at the front end of A&E – but conflict with the conclusions of a Primary Care Foundation report, which questioned whether they were a viable option.
The new study, published in last week’s British Journal of General practice, analysed data from 2,102 patients attending a Dutch A&E unit without referral.
Patients were triaged by a nurse and unless they needed emergency care allocated either to a GP or an A&E doctor.
Patient satisfaction among 952 patients seen by the GP, as measured by questionnaire, was significantly higher than among those receiving normal A&E care.
Processing time was an average of 24 minutes shorter for patients seen by GPs than by A&E doctors, with 55% seen by the GP within 20 minutes compared with 20% with normal care.
A report in March by the Primary Care Foundation, which advises the DH, found only between 10% and 30% of patients visiting A&E were suitable for GP treatment.
But study leader Dr Joan Boeke, a GP and senior researcher at VU University Medical Centre, said: ‘It’s interesting GPs can improve efficiency and effectiveness of care in A&E. I assume this is related to how GPs deal with diagnostic uncertainty and emphasis on medical history.’