Easier GP access could save hospital A&E, says manager

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The boss of West Suffolk Hospital’s accident and emergency service has called for easier access to the health system to ease the load on A and E.

Andy Graham, West Suffolk Hospital Trust’s interim executive chief operating officer, was speaking on the day the College of Emergency Medicine and Foundation Trust Network called for action to stop A and E meltdown. He said that in the year to the end of March they had 3,500 more patients than in 2011/12.

“This winter it was difficult to maintain the waiting times we would like,” he said.

He said the aging population was part of the cause, but added: “Patients often tell us they come to A and E because they can’t get appointments with their GP.

“There is the opportunity here to work with the Clinical Commissioning Group to see how access to treatment elsewhere can be improved.”

He said the new NHS 111 helpline has also increased attendances, partly because it is an easy to remember number.

Mr Graham said the health minister should make sure other health services are widely known and accessible.

He added: “My second message is to patients to help us. If it was your mum needing urgent A and E treatment you wouldn’t want her to wait while doctors dealt with those who could be seen elsewhere.”

He said the hospital was implementing recommendations from the National Emergency Care Support Team, a Government expert group.

They include adding a six-bed unit to A and E allowing patients whose treatment might take a few hours to stay there instead of going to a ward.