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Of course GPs in A&E won’t improve access



Ah, don’t you just love it when that happens? ‘Patients will be able to see a GP “in every A&E” by next winter, says NHS boss’ v ‘GP appointment waiting times to be published under new access drive’.

Glorious. Both statements from the same department, each deeply flawed and the one at odds with the other.

So. The GP in every A&E thing. I really don’t think you need me to highlight the issues. But just in case: off the top of my head, we have the potentially eye-watering defence subs, the funding of £100m not buying that much for that long, the possible inadvertent encouragement of patients to attend A&E (to see a GP, yippee!) and the fact that a more logical but equally ambitious aspiration would actually be to have a general practitioner in every general practice.

And the GP appointment publication thing? Ho hum. For one thing, appointment access is a very complex issue – and you can bet that whatever instrument they end up using to measure it will be about as blunt as the weapon they beat us over the head with when that data is misappropriated by the likes of the CQC.

And for another, while I’m not even slightly surprised that NHS England’s line on the new investment is, ‘…it’s reasonable to expect, on the back of that, improved access,’ I don’t even slightly agree. That funding was needed just to cope with the workload dump, and I am running out of time, energy, will and space to magic up appointments. It might get us off our knees, but we’ll still be barely mobile.

Which leaves us with that delicious contradiction. Just to savour the absurdity of it, I would absolutely love to work in my local A&E just to triage one of my own patients back to an appointment with me at my own surgery which he won’t get because I’m triaging patients like him at A&E who are there because they can’t get an appointment with me.

Hilarious, but infuriating, too. By the time you read this blog, the typo made by Pulse about this ‘GP streaming’ will have been corrected. Shame. Because I think they had it right first time. GPs will be steaming, and so will their patients.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield