Responding to news that NHS England is considering a pilot scheme requiring patients to be referred to emergency departments by a GP to help reduce A&E attendances, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“Trying to solve a problem in one part of the NHS by shifting it onto another won’t work. Pressure on emergency departments is down to seriously-ill patients and a lack of capacity and funding across the whole system.
"All this proposed system would do is add an extra layer of bureaucracy, and create further delays, for patients, and add to pressure on the NHS, GPs, or other clinicians. It could also have the added effect of increasing the burden on the ambulance service as people could instead just call an ambulance to get a place in A&E.
“GPs are already working beyond their capacity, with one in three practices themselves having unfilled vacancies.
“In the short term what is needed is better patient education on what is provided, where and in what circumstances, so that those A&E admissions that are not really necessary can be avoided. But in the long term the government needs to urgently address the funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole.”
Notes to editors
The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.