Scheme to put GPs in A&E all day could backfire

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On one occasion last October there were 100 potential patients waiting to be seen in the accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.

If you were one of them with a genuine need to be in the Cosham hospital that day, you have our sympathy.

But, on the face of it, there is now some good news from QA which is going some way to alleviating the problem.

Since last April GPs from Portsmouth and across the rest of south-east Hampshire have been employed in what is now called the Urgent Care Centre to filter off those who do not need to be at the hospital at all.

Hundreds of people have been sifted out freeing A&E for those who really need to be there.

The scheme has been so successful that from this April it will run 24 hours a day.

Great news for those administrators whose job it is to cut the queues.

But we suspect there might well be a knock-on.

If you look at the table accompanying the story on page 5 today you will see hundreds of those who turned up at the hospital were discharged to their GP’s surgery because their problem was deemed not serious enough to warrant hospital treatment.

Now this is fine if, as Portsmouth North Tory MP Penny Mordaunt says, GP surgery hours are extended to cover evenings and weekends.

It’s not clear yet just how many GPs from Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport and south-east Hampshire will cover those 24-hour shifts in the hospital.

But one thing is clear: if they are working at the hospital, they cannot be in their surgery to which, presumably, a proportion of rejected hospital patients are being sent.

With record numbers of GPs quitting the NHS, many of them opting to go abroad because of the stress and long hours involved to get through their quota of patients each day, there is a danger this scheme could backfire.

It might well turn out to be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, or in this case – Queen Alexandra.