A&E pressures blamed on minor injuries and NHS 111

BMA leaders have blamed the 'disastrous' introduction of NHS 111 for a surge in people being misdirected to emergency care, after data showed visits to minor A&E departments had risen 11 times faster than population growth since 2004.

A&E: visits to major centres were stable, but smaller units saw sharp rise
A&E: visits to major centres were stable, but smaller units saw sharp rise

Analysis by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed patients attending minor injury units and urgent care centres were behind the rising demand on the A&E system.

Attendances at type 1, major A&E departments rose only slightly above the rate of population increase over the same period.

There were a total of 22 million A&E attendances in 2012/13, compare with around 340 million GP consultations.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said the key to alleviating pressure was an effective out-of-hours phone service. ‘Yet, the disastrous introduction of NHS 111 replaced a clinician-led service with a call centre and was responsible for many people being wrongly directed to emergency departments,’ he said.

He added: ‘The figures also shine a light on health inequality in the UK. It's a cause for serious concern that the most deprived make up the greatest proportion of attendees at emergency departments, an issue the government needs urgently to address. So too is the fact one in two elderly patients attending an emergency department are admitted to hospital, often because of poor access to more appropriate community based services.

He called for ‘system-wide reform’ of emergency departments and adequate funding.

The Keogh review last month called for faster access to primary care, an enhanced 111 service, a two-tiered emergency department system, and co-location of community urgent care services with uniformly-named urgent care centres.

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