– Family doctor service cannot act as back-up system for overwhelmed hospitals
– Hospital overcrowding and increasing waiting times will create more pressure on GPs
– Family doctor service is at capacity and cannot cope with influx of emergencies
– Resourcing GPs must be addressed urgently to help reduce increasing waiting lists
– General Practice could assist with minor surgeries and chronic disease management if resourced

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has reacted to hospital advice urging patients to see their GP before attending the Emergency Department due to overcrowding. Chief Executive for the NAGP, Mr. Chris Goodey commented that general practice is at crisis point and is not resourced to act as a triage for Emergency Departments (EDs) if patients need urgent care.

Mr. Goodey said, “If properly resourced, General Practice has the potential to alleviate the increasing waiting times and overcrowding we are seeing in hospitals. However, the reality is that General Practice is currently under-resourced and at crisis point in terms of capacity. GPs have been forced to refer some patients to EDs to ensure they are seen to quickly so it is not productive for hospitals to be forced to refer patients to family doctors for urgent care. This is a cycle that must end as it is negatively impacting both the patients and the doctors”.

General practice is already at capacity with waiting times in most practices now a reality. The NAGP believe that we need to keep patient care in the community, where possible, to avoid unnecessary trips to hospitals. However, primary care must be properly supported and funded to deliver the highest level of patient care.

Mr. Goodey said, “We have an ever increasing frail elderly population with multiple chronic illnesses. EDs are often the least appropriate place for such patients but without the resources to manage these patients in the community there is often no other option. Managing such patients’ problems is complex and time consuming. With properly resourced chronic disease management, increased practice nurses, increased PHN’s and adequate home help hours we are positioned to keep far more of this population in the community. With proper funding in place for minor surgical procedures we have a skilled GP workforce well positioned to carry out a lot of minor surgery currently referred to Out Patient Departments”.