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Shake-up needed of urgent care

Patients are confused about where to go, report finds

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Urgent care needs to be simplified and its relationship with general practice changed.

In the report Breaking the mould without breaking the system, produced by the Primary Care Foundation, supported by the NHS Alliance and ‘originally sponsored’ by the DoH, urgent care is described as ‘complex and fragmented’.

The report states that patients are confused about where to access care given the wide-range of options including NHS Direct, GPs, A&Es, walk-in centres, urgent care centres and polyclinics.

Moreover, the report says evidence suggests opening new services simply opens up new demand. It calls on commissioners to take a fresh look at their urgent care strategy and the range of disparate services commissioned over the last ten years.

“Can all services really be justified? How do they add value to patient care? Are commissioners paying twice for the same service?” asks the report.

It goes on to describe general practice as the bedrock of any urgent healthcare system.

“There is a need for greater emphasis on ensuring individual practices respond rapidly and effectively to patients with an urgent need. If all practices improved the speed and effectiveness in responding to same day requests, there would be a substantial beneficial effect on the wider healthcare system; all commissioning strategies for urgent care should start by addressing the key role of general practice.”

Rick Stern, urgent care lead, NHS Alliance and director of the Primary Care Foundation, explained: “We need a system that everyone understands and which gives easy and prompt access to patients. Creating an extra layer, by sending everyone to triage before a full consultation, is simply not effective or desirable, from the point of view of patients whose conditions can change dramatically within a short period of time.”

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman, NHS Alliance, added: “With the development of clinical commissioning, now is the time and opportunity for the whole network to think afresh about how to get the best possible urgent care system across a local community. We need to bring the system together and challenge the way urgent care is being currently delivered - we need to break the mould and find new ways to ensure that the system is fit for purpose and that our patients get the care they need and deserve.”

Breaking the Mould without Breaking the System will be formally launched at the NHS Alliance Conference in Manchester on 1st December.

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