Colchester: GPs will help treat patients at Colchester General Hospital’s A&E department
- Credit: Su Anderson
GPs will be used to treat some patients at a north Essex hospital’s Emergency Department as part of a four-week trial – in the hope it relieves pressure on the unit.
The scheme will see GPs treat adult patients at Colchester General Hospital who are described as “walking wounded” and those who have health issues such as straightforward fractures, sprains, cuts and minor head injuries.
It is hoped the move will take some pressure off ED staff, allowing them to deal with only the most serious emergencies.
The pilot comes after the EADT launched a major 12-week campaign, entitled Make the Right Call, last month, urging people to go to the right locations when in need of medical help.
It aims to address confusion over which service people should use - whether its seeking advice from a pharmacist, visiting your GP, going to A&E or calling NHS 111.
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Meanwhile, it has also emerged that Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust spent £36,465 on a family doctor, who earned £97 per hour – an average of £776 per shift – working in the emergency department at Colchester General Hospital over the past three years.
The trust has one GP, who works for North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (NEECCG) and the trust for one day per week, who uses his specialist urgent care skills to see patients in all areas, working as a link between the trust, NEECCG and GP colleagues.
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A Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said the GP provides an extra resource alongside the A&E staff.
He added: “A significant proportion of patients who attend our Emergency Department at Colchester General Hospital have minor illnesses or conditions which GPs see every day in their surgeries in general practice.
“Therefore, they are extremely suitable to work in an emergency department and also provide an extra resource alongside our own staff which benefits patients.”
The GP’s salary for the A&E shifts is split between the hospital trust and NEECCG.
An NEECCG spokesman said it is helping Colchester General Hospital work through the pressures it faces in treating and discharging patients efficiently enough to allow the A&E department to work smoothly.
He added: “We are working together with the hospital and other partners to develop a plan to improve urgent care, which includes A&E at the hospital, into the future.
“There have been pilot efforts to use GPs directly as part of A&E in the past here and elsewhere, with mixed results.
“One of the reasons for this is that many of those patients who come into A&E are there because they need particular diagnostic tests, for example X-rays, or because they need specialist skills or because they need to be admitted for a period to a hospital bed – GPs do not necessarily contribute to any of these needs.
“So our thinking is that we need the right clinicians in the right place – when the great majority of people arriving at A&E need these specialist skills and diagnostics, then having GPs working there might not be the answer.
“It is also very well known that there is a particular shortage of GPs at doctors’ surgeries in Colchester and in particular in Tendring.
“If we move some of these GPs to A&E we could actually get more patients coming to A&E unnecessarily because they struggle to get to see a GP.”