Letters September 22: Columnist’s misdiagnosis of how NHS works in emergency

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From: Hugh Rogers, Messingham Road, Ashby.

While I sympathise with Jayne Dowle (The Yorkshire Post, September 21), she should not assume or suggest that her father would have been turned away from his local accident and emergency department if he had not seen a GP first.

Indeed, A&E’s “open door” policy may be the root cause of hospital emergency departments being over stretched, because it is open to abuse by folk who simply cannot be bothered to register with a GP and treat the hospital as if it was their local doctors’ surgery. But the fact is that by dialling 111 or by simply turning up at the hospital, treatment, if necessary, will be provided.

That said, I think it is important to remember that most GPs are not specialists – as primary carers, they provide advice, reassurance and first line medication.

They have roles to play as primary care administrators through local clinical commissioning groups but they are unlikely to be ophthalmologists.

The clue is in their title – they are general medical practitioners. They act as “gatekeepers” to the rest of the NHS, particularly hospital-based clinics and consultants.

But that does not and never has meant that specialised consultancy-level treatment cannot be accessed in other ways, because it can – typically through emergency departments.

Simply increasing the number of non-specialist GPs may sound simple and obvious. With all due respect to the Royal College of GPs, it’s a very expensive answer to the wrong question.

Understanding the complementary roles of GPs and the medical emergency services would, I suggest, go a long way to avoiding the kind of frustration and distress which she describes. Phone 111 next time, Jayne.

From: R Williams, Roundhay, Leeds.

Further to Jayne Dowle’s column about the difficulties experienced by her father in seeing a GP and similar complaints from readers, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a local doctor’s surgery who can see me so promptly.

Indeed, when I call up for an appointment I am asked if my issue is serious, in which case I will be bumped up the queue.

I can only conclude that in many areas the demand for GPs far outstrips supply. This then raises the question as to whether a career in family medicine is no longer considered attractive, hence the shortage of new blood coming into the profession.