New figures suggest that hospital emergency departments are being overloaded with a large number of redirected patients due to GP out of hour’s services not working correctly. In fact, since family doctors were allowed to opt out of weekends and nights as part of a highly controversial contract which has caused A and E admissions to increase by 12%.
Many patients with minor complaints are now choosing to dial 999 or head to casualty departments at hospitals because they do not understand how to make proper use of the out of hours service.
In the last five years the amount of people heading to A&E has increased by 1.35m according to a report by the Nuffield Trust, the independent health charity. Follow-up services show that the heavy demand is costing the NHS about £330m more every year and is straining the already limited resources and hospital staff.
Doctors in emergency rooms blame the increase in the poor GP cover, stating that patients either do not believe in the care they receive from the out of hours GP cover, or simply are not sure how to reach their local service.
The new contract was a Labour introduction in 2004 and also increased the average salary of GPs up to £106,000 even though nine out of ten choose not to provide care to their patients over the weekends or in the evenings.
As a result many Primary Care Trusts were also forced to hire doctors from overseas with poor English skills leading to a large shift in public perception in the out of hours service. The failings were exemplified in 2008 when a patient died after being treated by a German GP.