The BBC has reported that the shortage of GPs is resulting in worried parents attending A&E departments with their children as they cannot get an appointment to see their GP. The report, undertaken by leading doctors, suggests that many emergency visits by parents are often for children with minor illnesses which could be managed in their local communities.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the charity, the Patient's Association, told the BBC that parents attend A&E: “Because they know they will be seen straight away at A&E rather than having to wait for days for an appointment with their GP.”
The report makes several recommendations to improve GP and community care to prevent parents turning to already over-stretched A&E departments. These include a rapid-access system so GPs can refer children to a specialist to be seen within 24 hours and round-the-clock nurse teams in the community to support children’s emergency services. However, although such recommendations are well intended, the problem is set to continue unless the shortage of GPs is addressed.
Prof Nigel Mathers of the Royal College General Practice (RCGP) told the BBC that the RCGP is calling for 8,000 more GPs in England while NHS England has introduced incentives to recruit newly trained doctors into practice and schemes to retain GPs thinking of leaving the practice. Such measures need to be implemented urgently to guarantee the recruitment of GPs, encourage trainees to stay and work in the UK, and ensure there are enough GPs both now and in the future.
If pressures on A&E departments across the country continue to increase due to the lack of GPs there are concerns that the standard of care provided in A&E will fall. The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team deals with a number of claims involving failings in care in A&E departments.