Out-of-hours GP care should be available alongside A&E units to stem “overwhelming” numbers of patients seeking urgent treatment, leading doctors say today.
The group says patients should not be expected to be able to determine whether or not they are suffering a serious problem or minor illness and should have access to both levels of care.
A report from the College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons warns worsening pressures are threatening A&E care.
Among 13 recommendations, they say health and social care workers should be located in emergency departments to bridge the gap between GP, hospital and social care services to support vulnerable patients.
They also call for community and social care to be available seven days a week to support urgent and emergency care services, which would mean patients could be safely discharged outside of normal working hours.
Senior doctors should be available to take key decisions round the clock and full diagnostic services should be available throughout the day and night.
“Currently the challenges faced by urgent and emergency services overwhelm the capacity of the system. In consequence the delivery of quality care is compromised,” their report states.
Royal College of Physicians president Sir Richard Thompson said the measures were needed otherwise “we shall simply walk blindfold into another winter crisis”. He said: “Over the past few years, services for ill patients have been stretched by the sheer amount of acute and emergency admissions, and we have to plan better for the future to protect patient safety.
Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, added: “Particularly important, is the need for community and social care services to be co-ordinated and delivered across seven days a week to support our emergency care system.”