Leave A and E for people with life threatening conditions, says GP

A DOCTOR is urging people to think carefully before going to the town’s A&E department.

The appeal has been made by Dr Matt Jackson, a GP at Seaforth Farm Surgery in Hailsham. He says NHS money needs to be spent wisely and a visit to A&E is not always the most appropriate and cost-effective option.

Dr Jackson is also the shadow accountable officer and vice chair of Coastal Community Healthcare – the emerging clinical commissioning group for the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford area. Under the Government’s reforms, clinical commissioning groups will take on responsibility for buying care from April 2013.

These forthcoming changes, which see GPs taking over the purse strings, have prompted an appeal from doctors, with some local surgeries sending out letters to patients about the costs involved in a trip to A&E.

Dr Jackson said, “Last week a mother brought her six-year-old son, Louis, in to us at the GP surgery. He had suffered a nasty bang on the head. We were able to assess his condition and get him home to rest quickly and safely. Louis was seen and treated swiftly; Louis and his mum didn’t have to make the journey to the DGH; and A&E was left free for those in a life threatening condition who really need it.

“We know that there is a growing demand for NHS services. The use of A&E and 999 services in particular has gone up significantly.

“Research shows that one out of every four people who go to A&E could have been more appropriately treated elsewhere in the community. By increasing awareness of the range of services available, we can make sure people get the right treatment in the right place.

“In recent years we have worked hard to increase the range of services available closer to home – for example people can get help and advice from a nurse or a doctor without a pre-booked appointment at the walk in centre at Eastbourne Train Station. It is open to everyone, every day between 8am and 8pm.

“Pharmacies are another example of where you can get NHS help closer to home and without needing to book an appointment. Many local pharmacies have a consultation room so patients can ask about minor ailments, and often leave with the appropriate medication minutes later. This benefits the patient as well as making sure that every penny spent in A&E goes towards treating those in a life threatening condition.

“Raising people’s awareness of the range of services available will benefit everyone.

“It is more important than ever that every penny of NHS money is spent wisely, making sure that all of our patients get high quality care in the best place for them – whether that be at a pharmacy, their GP or A&E.

“With people like Louis coming to see me at the practice it means the unlucky patient who has had a serious accident, is bleeding heavily and needs to go to A&E can go there knowing that all of the staff and equipment on site there will be dedicated to people like them.”

Dr Jackson’s advice comes after both Downland Medical Centre in Polegate and the Arlington Road Medical Practice in Eastbourne warned patients about costly visits to A&E.

In its monthly newsletter The Arlington Road surgery stated, “Each time a patient attends A&E the practice is charged an initial fee of currently £52.”

And the Downland Medical Centre letter sent out with prescriptions read, “We have been looking at the cost to the NHS when patients attend A&E with conditions that could have been treated for another NHS service.

“The average cost per attendance, not involving an overnight stay, for our surgery in January 2011 was £1,005.29. Please consider other services before making your choice.”