A SCHEME that sees GPs working in A&E is to be extended to 24 hours a day in a bid to ease huge demands at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The initiative was introduced to sift out those people who are at QA unnecessarily.
Figures from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, show that between April and December last year, GPs ensured hundreds of people were treated elsewhere, freeing up A&E for those who need it.
Known as the urgent care centre, it will go 24 hours a day in April to further ease the pressure at QA’s emergency department.
It comes after the Cosham hospital was placed on ‘black alert’ last month and in October because it could not cope with ‘unprecedented’ numbers of people coming into A&E – at one point around 100 people were waiting to be seen.
It is hoped extending the GP initiative will help PHT get nearer the government benchmark of seeing, treating or discharging 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours.
The decision to use GPs 24 hours a day has been made by the leaders of the Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport and South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which pay for health services.
Dr Jim Hogan, the urgent care lead for the CCGs, said: ‘We’ve extended the hours in response to the continued high numbers of people at A&E.
‘When patients arrive they are signposted to the most appropriate area of treatment for them.
‘This could be A&E, but it could involve re-directing them to a minor injuries unit, their own GP or other healthcare services as we continue to find people are going to ED when they don’t need to.’
The move will be paid for by using a share of £8m winter resilience money given to the CCGs to ease pressure on A&E departments.
Dr Hogan added: ‘We hope this will further relieve the pressure on the hospital and ensure even more patients receive both timely and appropriate healthcare and or advice.
‘It’s hopefully a win-win situation for all concerned, particularly the patient.’
A GP is currently in A&E from 10am to 10pm every day and from midday to 9pm on weekends and bank holidays. An advanced nurse practitioner is there from 7.30am to 10pm.
The move has been welcomed by Maria Purse, manager of the A&E department at QA. She said: ‘We have seen a continual growth in people being seen by the centre.
‘For us extending the service is a great development because the system works well, therefore we absolutely welcome its extension.
‘It means patients are getting seen to quickly, and if they don’t need to be in A&E then they are being signposted to where they should be going.
‘This means A&E is free for those who need it for an emergency.’
QA was the sixth worst-performing trust in the country in terms of meeting A&E visitor targets in the three months leading up to Christmas, with 81.7 per cent of people seen within four hours.
However, recent figures showed an improvement during January.