NHS England is considering pilots to stop walk-in patients attending A&E departments, requiring them to be referred by a GP or NHS 111.
Dr Helen Thomas, national medical advisor for integrated urgent care at NHS England, said NHS England ‘may well pilot’ a ‘talk before you walk’ scheme that requires all patients – unless they come via ambulance – to be referred or speak with a GP or other clinician before attending A&E.
She suggested that the talks have involved the health secretary at some level, but added that they were at an early stage.
It is an attempt to reduce demand that is threatening to engulf secondary care and emergency care services this winter.
Pulse has already reported that patients are having to wait 13 hours to be seen at A&E, while other hospitals are having to enlist GPs to help them reduce their waiting lists for referrals and others have sent patients out of county for certain specialties.
This latest suggestion, however, would stop patients from attending A&E without a referral from elsewhere.
Dr Thomas said: ‘[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 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.’
Dr Thomas added that while piloting such a scheme would be a political ‘hot potato’, a pilot in just one area would yield ‘some really interesting information’.
Article from Pulse, 13 October 2017