GP out-of-hours must improve to ease A&E pressure, says RCP

Access to GP out-of-hours services must improve to relieve pressure on NHS hospitals which are on the 'brink of collapse', the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has warned.

A&E: pressure on hospitals has left some on 'brink of collapse'

A report by the college said it was ‘increasingly clear that our hospitals are struggling to cope with an ageing population and increasing hospital admissions’.

It called for improving access to primary care ‘whenever needed, including at the weekend and at night’ to relieve pressure on A&E services.

GPC member Dr Fay Wilson, group medical director of the BADGER out-of-hours service in Birmingham, said commissioners showed little sign of investing necessary funds. ‘The difficulty is that commissioning authorities find it unattractive,’ she said.

‘They prefer to continue pouring money into hospitals. But the only way to improve access is to put in the resources.’

Dr Wilson said she doubted clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) would improve the situation. ‘For CCGs the main pressure is going to be saving money… and hitting targets for the big bosses at the NHS Commissioning Board,’ she said.

The RCP report said hospitals have faced a huge rise in demand, with a 37% rise in emergency admissions over the past decade, with a third fewer general and acute beds than 25 years ago.

More patients have dementia and continuity of care has declined, it added.

The report outlined 10 areas to improve services. These included promoting dignity and patient-centred care, ensuring patients receive high-quality care every day of the week and improving audit use.

RCP president Sir Richard Thompson said: ‘One doctor told me that his trust does not function well at night or at the weekend and he is "relieved" that nothing catastrophic has happened when he arrives at work on Monday morning. This is no way to run a health service.

'Excellent care must be available to patients at all times of the day and night. We call on government, the medical profession and the wider NHS to work together to address these problems.’

Click here to read the RCP report

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