Jeremy Hunt is thinking of banning you from just turning up at hospital. Even if you’re sick or injured

Jeremy Hunt hospital NHS

The government and NHS England are in talks about banning people from just turning up at hospital emergency departments (A&E). Instead, under plans for a trial scheme, if you were sick or injured you’d have to be referred by your GP or the NHS 111 helpline, or wait for an ambulance to take you.

‘Talk before you walk’

As Pulse reported, Dr Helen Thomas, national medical advisor for integrated urgent care at NHS England, was speaking at a conference about urgent care. She said that Health Secretary:

Jeremy Hunt has mentioned to some of my colleagues, maybe we should have a ‘talk before you walk’ and we may well pilot that. I think it’s been done in other countries where they’ve actually said you can’t come into ED [A&E] 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.

The idea comes off the back of an increasing strain on A&E departments. In September, 89.7% of patients were seen in four hours in A&E, compared to 90.6% a year earlier. And in some hospitals, people have been waiting 13 hours to be treated.

Papering over the cracks?

A ‘talk before you walk’ scheme would mean patients having to see their GP or ring NHS 111 first. Both Thomas and Dr Simon Abrams, Chair of Urgent Care UK, said the idea was “interesting”. But Council Chair of the British Medical Association Dr Chaand Nagpaul disagreed. He told The Telegraph:

Trying to solve a problem in one part of the NHS by shifting it onto another won’t work. Pressure on [A&Es] is down to seriously-ill patients and a lack of capacity and funding across the whole system. All this proposed system would do is add an extra layer of bureaucracy, and create further delays, for patients, and add to pressure on the NHS, GPs, or other clinicians.

And the figures surrounding GP practices back up Nagpaul’s point. As The Canary previously reportedfigures [pdf] for the year up until 30 June 2017 show that 202 GP practices either closed or merged across England – with just eight opening to replace them.

Read on...

In contrast, NHS Digital’s data showed that the number of patients registered with GPs had increased, again; up 55,178 in July compared to June. And there are now 2,427,526 more registered patients than in July 2013. Meanwhile, the number of full-time GPs dropped by nearly 3% in the year up to March 2017.

A reality check

But comments about the ‘talk before you walk’ scheme from apparent medical professionals underneath the Pulse article echoed Nagpaul’s feelings. One user wrote:

Things I’ve seen ‘walk in’ – catastrophic strokes, fracture dislocations, STEMIs [heart attacks]…

Things I’ve seen come in ambulances – unilateral conjunctivitis, ingrown toenails, feeling a bit lonely.

How people pitch up doesn’t dictate their seriousness. It’ll be less than 24 hours of this being implemented that some poor stoical patient will keel over with a STEMI in a GP practice having been bounced out of A&E.

A Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson said:

There are absolutely no plans to pilot this approach – patients can be reassured that unprecedented planning has gone into preparing the NHS for this winter, supported by an extra £100m for A&E departments and £2bn for the social care system.

Also, an NHS England “source” told The Guardian:

There are no formal plans to consider any pilots about stopping walk-in patients. It was just a pie in the sky possibility that Pulse have massively overblown.

What a ‘half-witted’ Hunt

Whether the scheme goes ahead in a trial form or not, the fact that Hunt has tabled the idea shows the depth of thinking in the DoH. That is, instead of listening to medical professionals who are saying the NHS is in “terminal decline“, the government merely invents even more preposterous ways to impede an already struggling system. Some say this is to make the NHS unviable, leaving privatisation as the only option. And with Hunt at the helm, tabling “half-witted” ideas on a regular basis, anything is possible.

Get Involved!

– Read more from The Canary on the NHS.

– Join The Canary, if you appreciate the work we do.

Featured image via Flickr

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed