When The Only Option Is A&E, Pressures On Emergency Departments Are Inevitable
If you’ve recently tried to make an appointment at your local doctor’s surgery, then we’re sure that the typical harassed receptionist asking you if it’s an emergency and then declaring the 2-3 week wait for an non-emergency appointment are wholly familiar.
Even if you manage to secure an appointment, GP’s surgeries are so 9-5 that full time workers often have to rely on the one or two ‘late’ surgeries in order to see a doctor outside of the patient’s working hours. GP’s surgeries are no longer flexible, and popping in with a mild to moderate complaint is likely to be met by frosty reception staff refusing non-emergency appointments.
So if you, a family member or someone who is defined as ‘vulnerable’ i.e. a child becomes ill outside of typical working hours such as evenings and weekends, what are the options?
Many NHS drop-in centres are open 7 days a week with longer opening hours, but if there’s fear a condition may be serious would a parent risk taking their child to a centre where the waiting times could be longer with no emergency staff on hand?
Of course, the NHS direct telephone line is always reassuring but what if you suspect a family member’s illness could be more serious than a passing virus? Would a telephone consultation really put your mind at rest if this was the case?
The truth is where a loved one’s health and wellbeing is concerned, none of us would leave anything to chance and in the absence of a on-call doctor, A&E is often the most obvious resort when medical attention is required during ‘anti-social’ hours.
Clearly treating Accident and Emergency as a first port of call is leading to increased stress on a department that should really be channelling its efforts into those patients who really do have an emergency, but if a patient is exhibiting potentially serious symptoms, we really can’t blame worried family members for rushing to A&E in the absence of their family doctor.
In an article published by The Telegraph earlier this month, David Prior, chairman of the Care Quality Commission has put GPs in the spotlight regarding out of hours care, concluding that although it is unrealistic to expect GPs to work around the clock, the culture that has so easily allowed them to opt of of working unsocial hours needs to be reviewed.
Mr Prior has called for services to be shifted to the community to avoid unnecessary admissions, but with more and more doctors avoiding general practice or opting for part-time work, there are fears there simply isn’t enough doctors to meet demand. This situation would be expected to worsen if doctors would be made to work around the clock as GPs.
The solutions are elusive and one response only seems to unearth yet another potential problem, but community groups have been praised as a useful service that offers patients the care they require without tying up A&E staff unnecessarily. These groups work by visiting patients in their own homes and working with nurses, local surgeries and community hospitals. This ensures any worrying symptoms are picked up early without unnecessary admission to larger hospitals.
A new work balance has also been called for with ideas to have nurse specialists taking over some of the tasks traditionally associated with doctors. These specialists nurses would also be supported by well-trained care assistants. Plans to ensure doctors have more ‘general’ skills as opposed to specialist skills has also been raised, with medical schools encouraged to promote this.
The need to relieve pressure on our stretched A&E departments while still offering quality out-of-hours patient care is clearly a subject which needs ongoing attention and reform. If you or a loved one have received unsatisfactory care, then get in touch with the medical negligence specialists at PH Solicitors for professional and friendly expert advice.