The College of Emergency Medicine (CEM) published a ten-point call to action to resolve the crisis in emergency departments.
It calls for other NHS services to ‘provide effective alternatives to A&E for patients without acute severe illness or injury seven days per week and at least 16 hours per day’.
College vice president Dr Chris Moulton told the Independent newspaper that GP out-of-hours services were not always comprehensive and A&E was the only 24-hour service.
But GPC out-of-hours lead Dr Peter Holden said general practice was, alongside A&E, the only part of the NHS which runs a 24/7 service.
‘This is not about general practice,' he said. ‘And I am sick of [the CEM] peddling the myth that general practice is not 24/7.’
Dr Holden said the problem for A&E departments was the outflow.
‘We can no longer get adequate social services cover out of hours, and nor can they. They may wish to refer to another department in the hospital - they already work five days a week.’
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said hospitals must do more to turn away patients who arrive at emergency departments with non-acute illnesses and injuries.
CEM president Dr Clifford Mann said his college had been warning about pressures on A&E for over a year and was playing its part.
‘However, this crisis cannot be solved by us alone, we need urgent action by all stakeholders to work with us to provide a stable long-term future for A&E services while tackling the short-term immediate pressures. This is why we have identified five priorities for us and five for the government and NHS leadership to grasp to address this crisis.’
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘The priorities outlined by the CEM highlight the importance of a system-wide approach to dealing with this crisis. In addition to greater funding and attracting and retaining more staff we also need to ensure only those who should be, are being treated in emergency departments.’