The National Association of General Practitioners is very concerned with the latest figures for Emergency Department waiting time as they show obvious patient safety issues with inadequate care pathways from the community to hospitals. The NAGP believes that the new Government now has an opportunity to increase the resources to GP-led Primary Care in order to tackle the crisis in Emergency Departments. Figures released by the Health Service Executive relating to the first two months of this year show that 8,627 patients were left waiting longer than 24 hours at ED. There were 219,073 presentations to emergency departments which represents an increase of 8% on the same period last year and which the NAGP believes is related to the increased pressures being placed on Primary Care.

Dr. Ronan Fawsitt, NAGP National Council Member, and based in Carlow-Kilkenny, where all GPs have immediate direct access to the new Integrated Ambulatory Care Centre stated “Over the last 15 years there have been various plans to increase resourcing to Primary Care in order to follow international trends that reduce attendances at Emergency Departments; unfortunately there has been a failure to implement these proposals. Last year Prof. Tom O’Dowd of Trinity College drew attention to the King’s Fund health research charity which calculated that seeing a GP costs £31, attending an emergency department costs £114 and the ambulance that takes the patient there costs £235 a journey. He noted that while these are UK prices, they are likely to bear up here in Ireland’.’

Dr. Emmet Kerin, NAGP President stated, “In light of the overwhelming international evidence I was very surprised and disappointed yesterday to read that Dr Fergal Hickey of Sligo General Hospital stated that: “no amount of primary care will solve the problem”.

“If we are going to be in a position to treat patients in an appropriate time frame, there has to be an increase in funding to Primary Care in order to keep patients, who could be treated in the community, out of the Emergency Department. For those very ill patients who do need immediate hospital care there also needs to be direct access for GPs (who are the senior decision makers in the community) to the appropriate acute hospital department – whether that’s medical, surgical, Gynae or frail elderly”.

Dr. Kerin added: “We believe that staff working in Emergency Departments should collaborate with General Practitioners. This model is working very successfully in St. Luke’s Hospital, Carlow-Kilkenny and should be replicated across the country”.