On the 13th October The Pulse Today reported that NHS England was considering a pilot scheme to stop walk in patients in A&E departments. Under the scheme patients would have to be referred by either 111 or a GP to access A&E, unless they were arriving in an ambulance.
The Pulse article quotes Dr Helen Thomas, the national medical advisor for integrated urgent care at NHS England, as saying ‘Jeremy Hunt has mentioned to some of my colleagues, maybe we should have a “talk before you walk” and we may well pilot that.’ continuing on to say ‘I think it’s been done in other countries where they’ve actually said you can’t come into ED until you’ve talked on referral or you have to have that sort of docket that you’re given by having talked on the phone that you do need to come to ED.’
As one commentator notes, at the very least you’d hope she’d be able to provide examples of these ‘other countries’ before outlining this dangerous pilot as an actual possibility. The Department of Health and NHS England have apparently denied the story stating that:
“There are absolutely no plans to pilot this approach”.
But they were unable to deny such discussions when asked by Caroline Molloy of OurNHS – see her reaction in Open Democracy – a good analysis of why the proposed pilot is a disastrous idea for the NHS. And you can listen to a recording of Dr Thomas’ comments here.
Pulse’s article was picked up by the mainstream media, including The Evening Standard, The Telegraph and The Guardian. The latter published the response from Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association. He said “Trying to solve a problem in one part of the NHS by shifting it on to another won’t work. Pressure on emergency departments is down to seriously ill patients and a lack of capacity and funding across the whole system … It could also have the added effect of increasing the burden on the ambulance service as people could instead just call an ambulance to get a place in A&E.”
This is yet another example of why we must fight against the plans of this current Secretary of State for Health’s who seems hell bent on dismantling Our NHS.
Join us! and come to the NHS Campaigners conference 4 November, 11am Hammersmith Town Hall (doors open 10am)