GP SURGERIES will start receiving referrals from A&E departments under a new set of measures proposed by NHS England which were announced yesterday.
The plans, which are open for consultation until 12th February, said low acuity patients who turn up to A&E without calling 111 first could be ‘streamed’ to general practice.
From this month, patients are being asked to call 111 before attending A&Es – with 111 triaging them to the most appropriate service, including GP practices.
In one pilot area for the ‘111 First’ model, patients were told that if they turned up to A&E without pre-booking an appointment they may not be seen, but rather asked to phone NHS 111 on the spot.
But it remains unclear whether GP referrals from A&E would come via 111 under NHS England’s national plans published yesterday.
The consultation document said: ‘Visiting an Emergency Department before using NHS 111 may mean patients are offered alternative services that could see them faster if more appropriate.’
BMA member Anna Athow said, however: ‘111 is a dangerous barrier to stop patients accessing A&E.
‘NHS England is making proposals to divert patients who attend A&E departments, either by demanding they call 111 or to seeing their GP instead.
‘The problem is, who exactly is going to rapidly decide that the patient is not a real emergency and can safely be shipped off back into the community?
‘Hospitals are desperately short of doctors, even more so now in the middle of the Covid pandemic.
‘And many GP surgeries are shut and only contactable on the phone or on line. And many GPs are struggling to organise Covid vaccinations.
‘Who exactly is going to decide which patient is very ill and which not? Patients do not present in A&E with a diagnosis stamped on their forehead. Sick patients can have very subtle symptoms and signs. Only trained doctors should be triaging them.
‘The reality is that NHS England wants to replace doctors with untrained call handlers in call centres, who do not know the patients and have no medical training, because it’s cheaper for the new private companies outsourced to run them.
‘NHS England has got away with palming self -isolating Covid patients onto 111 call handlers, employed by Serco and others, and now they want to roll this out for emergency patients.
‘This is a disaster. We know that hundreds of patients died at home from Covid because of wrong advice from 111. Ambulances were called too late.
‘Now they want to inflict the same system of remote call handling to all patients looking for emergency care.
‘NHS England’s plans to remove emergency access to A&Es for ordinary people must be stopped immediately and the entire NHS Long Term plan thrown out.
‘Those District General Hospitals that have lost their A&E and seen paediatric and maternity departments closed down, must have them restored immediately.
‘The billions wasted on private companies, must be used to recruit the thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics to restore a first class NHS. This government has to go.’