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GPs: We can't take on hospital overflow - we're overwhelmed already

Comments from GPs come after it emerged there are record numbers of people waiting on trollies in hospitals around the country.

GENERAL PRACTITIONERS HAVE said they do not have the resources to take on overflow from hospitals amid severe overcrowding, as they are struggling themselves.

Yesterday it emerged that numbers of people on trollies in Irish hospitals have hit a record high. Staff at Beaumont Hospital are so concerned about the issue that they served notice of industrial action and will also stage a lunchtime protest this Friday.

There is a crisis in general practice too, according to the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) which said diverting patients from a “besieged Emergency Department network to a crippled GP system” would be “ridiculous”.

“There has been much talk of inappropriate attendees in recent days. The fact is, no attendance is inappropriate,” said secretary of the association Keith Swanick. “Patients and GPs are well aware of the state of our emergency departments and no-one would voluntarily put themselves or anyone else into a situation where they could be lying for days on a trolley in a corridor, if it were at all avoidable”.

Patients are attending A&Es because it is their only way of accessing the services they require for their situation.

This could change, however, according to Swanick, who said GPs could help shoulder some of the burden in EDs if the government made greater resources available to them.

Only half of all ED attendees require specialist consultation which means these healthcare services could be offered by GPs and Swanick said it has been long acknowledged that the solution to hospital overcrowding lies outside the hospital system.

“Funnelling scarce finances into a bottle-necked hospital system has not and will not resolve the problem,” he commented. “The focus needs to shift away from the familiar fire-fighting approach we have seen over the last decade and must urgently allow patients to access the services they need through their GP in order to avoid attending the emergency department in the first place.”

Swanick said GPs would be fully capable of taking on services like X-rays, with the right investment, in order to keep people out of the Emergency Departments so they have the capacity to deal with emergencies as they arise.

A complete re-think of how patient care is structured and resourced is needed, said Swanick, who supported the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) call for an emergency meeting between all key stakeholders.

Read: Nurses at Beaumont Hospital are going on a work-to-rule>
Read: Over 600 patients are waiting for hospital beds around the country>

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