GP 999 response scheme saves £1m

West Midlands GPs employed to respond to 999 calls have saved more than £1m by preventing nearly 1,000 A&E attendances in a single CCG area.

Dr Nikki Burger: GP 999 scheme improving care and saving money (phot: Hardeep Cheema)

GPs in the South Worcestershire CCG scheme are called out by the ambulance control room or by paramedics as an alternative to an ambulance call-out.

Just 20% of the 1,221 calls dealt with by GPs have resulted in a hospital admission since the scheme was launched last October.

Commissioners estimate that over this period 970 A&E attendances and 500 hospital admissions have been prevented, saving £1.1m.

The scheme began as a pilot but has now been adopted on a permanent basis.

South Worcestershire CCG urgent care lead Dr Nikki Burger, who works as a GP on the scheme, said: ‘Our target is that the GP deals with 35 ambulance cases a week – an average of five a day – and the rest of the time they are available to provide the extended support role.

‘The scheme has helped to provide a better service for patients, as GP and ambulance services work more closely to provide care to patients closer to home.’

The scheme costs about £21,000 a month to run and so far 50 GPs have taken part.

GPs are employed by the CCG on a rota basis for eight hours a day, seven days a week between lunchtime and early evening, which is the busiest time for ambulance crews in the area.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash called for a boost in GP numbers to enable similar schemes to be rolled out nationwide.

‘This is the way we should be involving GPs and looking at how we can work more closely with our secondary care colleagues,’ she said.

‘Evidence shows that the most qualified person triaging gets the best results.

 ‘I am not surprised that when general practice is involved, they are getting better outcomes.’

On the possibility of similar schemes being rolled out elsewhere, she said: ‘Most GPs are working 12-hour days and are struggling with increased workload and this is something extra.

‘We can’t do this on top of the day job.

‘We need extra capacity and funding for this to be delivered properly and work safely for patients.’

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