Cash boost for North Staffordshire's family doctors
EXTRA cash is to be pumped into GP surgeries in North Staffordshire to encourage more people to use them instead of seeking treatment at a hard-pressed A&E unit.
Millions of pounds are set to be used to help the family doctors stay open longer and work harder to prevent patients falling so ill they then need to turn to the accident unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
Officials from a new NHS body, about to take on commissioning non hospital-based care, made the pledge after the surgeries were accused of not being available often enough to keep people out of the Hartshill complex.
It came after Stoke-on-Trent city councillors heard yesterday how patients were attending A&E 'by default' because they could not get the treatment from either the GP practices or walk-in centres such as the Haywood at Burslem.
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The adults and neighbourhood scrutiny committee was told that while attendances at A&E had surged by a 11.6 percent in a year, numbers using the Haywood had remained constant.
Kath Banks said: "I even know of a family who all caught a cold and went up to A&E together. This shows people are confused where to go and so turn up at A&E automatically."
Fellow members claimed patients were being forced to go to A&E because their surgery was closed or they had to wait too long for an appointment.
The extra cash was announced by Tracey Shewan, assistant nursing director with the Staffordshire and Shropshire local area team which will take over the financing of the city's primary care from April under the Government's NHS reforms.
She said: "It does get confusing for the public especially when they find it difficult to get an immediate appointment with their own GP.
"People default to A&E where they know they will get seen by a doctor and it is one-stop shop giving all the treatment in one go – whereas if they visit the GP they feel they will have to be referred somewhere else. A huge piece of work is needed on this whole issue.
"I hear what people are saying about GP access so we will seek to commission timely care across the board to drive up performance and standards."
No decisions have yet been taken about how much extra money will be spent at the practices in Stoke-on-Trent, most of which still shut in Thursday afternoons.
George Abela, chairman of city health watchdog the Local Involvement Network, told the committee: "GPs could help alleviate the problem by offering quicker appointments – but they are not playing ball."