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Third of patients presenting at A&E ‘could be treated by GPs’

GPs located in hospitals could treat up to 30% of patients currently arriving at emergency departments, claims a new report.

The College of Emergency Medicine report argues urgent care centres run by GPs or other professionals on the same site as their emergency departments could to divert patients away from beleaguered A&E staff.

Only about 10% of emergency departments currently have co-located primary care facilities, said the College, although the proportion of emergency departments with co-located out of hours GP services delivering unscheduled primary care is higher at 36%.

The College makes the recommendation among nine others in a report, The Drive for Quality, calling for a major shake-up in the provision of emergency services and the way they are funded.

Emergency departments are on the verge of collapse because of staffing and cash shortages, the College argues.

The report draws on findings of a survey of 131 UK emergency departments by the College during 2011 and 2012.

The report states: ‘Commissioners and clinicians must work closely together as a matter of priority to better manage workload in their emergency departments.

‘Clear targeted funding strategies and appropriate co-located primary care services are needed to cater for 15% to 30% of the present work in emergency departments.’

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Mike Farrar said they strongly supported the warning by the College.

He said: ‘The past few months have been the toughest many of us in the NHS can remember, and credit must go to A&E staff who have been working tirelessly to manage patients safely.

‘The key thing is to understand that A&E doesn’t stand alone - pressure in our A&E departments is a visible symptom of a whole system under great strain and tackling it requires a whole-system solution.

‘We urgently need  to look at the alternatives. This includes fundamentally reviewing how we organise and fund our services outside traditional hospital settings, the way staff work throughout the whole week, and how we provide effective alternatives to hospital-based emergency care.’