A LACK of GPs threatens to derail efforts to redesign health services in the borough.
Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group has set out ambitious plans to change how people access the urgent care system to treat more people outside of hospital and ease the pressure on A&E departments.
The proposals include redesigning A&E at the Alexandra Hospital to include an urgent care centre involving GPs, a minor injuries unit and more ambulatory care so conditions can be treated without admission.
The new system will involve an assessment of patients when they walk through the door to decide which part of A&E they need to be in rather than simply telling them to wait to be seen by an emergency consultant. It is hoped to trial the new system from August.
The creation of diagnostic units at the Alex and the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bromsgrove to allow doctors to perform tests and observations before deciding whether to admit or treat them in another way is also planned, as is the expansion of the CCG’s virtual ward scheme which delivers hospital care either at home or in the community.
As result of measures already in place, attendances at the Alex are down by about 2,000 people, with admissions also falling.
But Dr Marion Radcliffe, urgent care lead for the CCG, said they had to do more to address the problems of an ‘instantaneous society’ where people expected their need to be dealt with quickly even if it wasn’t clinically necessary.
“We know somewhere between 15 and 50 per cent of patients attending A&E have a primary care problem, maybe an earache or a sore throat, and what we need to do is have the right people around to treat them for their need,” she told a governing body meeting last Thursday (May 22).
But there are deep concerns easing the pressure on A&E will simply transfer it to GPs who are already overstretched with patients in Redditch reporting waits of between three and four weeks for routine appointments.
Dr Rupen Kulkarni, from Winyates Health Centre, said in the last five years alone he had seen consultations per patient rise from over seven to around ten but he feared even the promise of increased investment from the Government would not be enough due to the time it takes to train GPs.
“That is a real, real threat if we don’t get the people and we needed the people in the system at least eight years back.”
But Dr Radcliffe insisted the problem could be overcome.
“We do have some tricks up our sleeves and as a CCG we need to invest in incentivising our GPs to work differently,” she said.
“If people can’t get to see their GP they will turn up at A&E, we know that.”