GPs and nurses stationed at the front door of a London A&E have been redirecting patients to help relieve pressures on hospital departments as part of a new pilot scheme.
Led by Harrow Health GP Federation, GPs and nurses in Harrow redirected more than 800 people in just four weeks at Northwick Park Hospital.
The front door team asked patients their reason for attending A&E, and patients with minor illnesses were sent to other services, such as an urgent GP access centre on the same or next day, or facilitated access to their GP practice.
Other patients were dealt with by the GP or nurse at the time or went on to other means of treatment including pharmacies with self-care advice.
The scheme was set up as an alternative to hospital outpatient appointments and hoped to offer localised NHS healthcare as fast as possible.
Harrow Health chairman and local GP Dr Kanesh Rajani said: ‘Whilst needing healthcare, some patients don’t need to be at A&E and can be seen by more suitable services in the community.’
He added that the scheme ‘takes a significant pressure off Urgent Care and A&E so that the clinicians can deal with the more complex problems with more time and attention.
‘Our vision is that every patient gets the care they need in the right place at the right time by the right clinician. Many clinicians work with a portfolio and have skills in different areas and we harness and maximise use of these skills.’
Redirection lead GP Dr Lily Wong told Pulse: ‘It has been fantastic to be part of this new initiative. We have been able to provide advice, see and treat patients and redirect many patients who’ve attended A&E with minor illnesses.
‘It’s been a huge success as it has been a truly multi-organisational effort. Working alongside hospital colleagues to relieve A&E pressures has been very rewarding. The initiative has ultimately allowed patients who need to be in A&E with clinically urgent problems to be seen quicker and faster.’
Director at Harrow Health GP Federation and local GP Dr Mehul Lakhani said: ‘Our clinical team triages the patient and if they are suitable for redirection, an administrator makes an appointment at a GP access hub and the patient leaves the department with a timely appointment rather than waiting several hours in A&E.
He added that the scheme means ‘resources are used in the best possible way’.
He said: ‘The patient leaves knowing they have a prompt and timely appointment rather than waiting several hours in A&E.’
It comes as GPs in England called for practices to be able to ‘switch off’ NHS 111 referrals when practices are being overwhelmed with demand.
Meanwhile, NHS England wrote to GPs active within urgent care to ask them to add any spare capacity to support the emergency response as a result of the Omicron variant.
A major London hospital trust urged its consultants to ensure they do not pass on unnecessary work to GPs.
And an MP recently warned his local GPs that he is putting them ‘on notice’ for ‘letting their patients down’ with regards to access.